mobilization briefs
December 22, 2023

Mobilization in Russia for Dec. 19-21, 2023 CIT Volunteer Summary

Authorities and Legislation 

President Putin instructed the Ministry of Defense and MinTsifry [the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media] to use the unified register of Russians subject to military service during the 2024 fall conscription campaign. Earlier, a MinTsifry deputy head had stated that the registry would not be fully operational until 2025. The two ministries must enable military service registration and deregistration without a visit to a draft office and provide access to a personal account page on the registry’s website. Moreover, they must provide for the publication of digital draft notices and notification of citizens under "temporary restrictions, intended to ensure that they report to the draft office following a draft notice." The ministries will need to submit monthly progress reports from Jan. 15, 2024 onwards. The Voyennye Advokaty [Military Lawyers] Telegram channel summarized the upcoming changes and noted that the first digital draft notices could be served as early as spring 2024.

Army Recruitment and Military Service Advertising

Journalist Farida Rustamova writes that federal authorities plan to recruit about 400,000 contract soldiers in 2024 and have already communicated respective targets to each region. Her sources among officials, who are familiar with the plans of the military leadership, believe that the objective will be harder to achieve than in 2023, because "all the individuals, who were willing to enlist for patriotic reasons, have already enlisted." Among other measures, authorities allegedly plan to target individuals, who fail to make their alimony payments. Conversely, Rustamova’s regional sources indicate that officials there would have preferred another wave of mobilization, which they consider simpler to carry out.

Struggling to recruit more soldiers for the war, Russia’s Defense Ministry is now targeting citizens in debt through the Federal Bailiff Service, including those with utility arrears. In particular, a resident of Karelia [Russia’s constituent republic] who failed to pay a utility bill of just 169 rubles [$1.87] received a letter from the bailiff urging him to enlist in the military in lieu of paying off his debt. The bailiff then summoned the debtor to the office to pressure him into joining the war in exchange for the suspension of debt recovery proceedings. Another debt-related case involves a resident of Krasnoyarsk convicted for causing a fatal DUI accident. The 45-year-old man had been sentenced to eight years behind bars but left the prison to fight in Ukraine, while discontinuing the court-ordered compensation payments to the victim’s family, which would otherwise have amounted to the total of 1.4 million rubles [$15,500].

In Saint Petersburg, military draft notices were issued to migrant workers during a ceremony for granting Russian citizenship. Upon having pronounced the oath and promised to abide by the Russian laws and Constitution, 11 new Russian citizens were handed draft notices by officials from the military commissariat [enlistment office] and the military investigative department of the Saint Petersburg Investigative Committee.

In Moscow, a young man was declared fit for military service and sent to the army within half an hour, despite having bronchial asthma. Danila's mother states that her son experienced several asthma attacks during his month of service at his duty station, leading to his exemption from combat training.

In the Volgograd region, a conscript is suing the draft office, which deemed him fit for statutory military service despite having documents confirming serious health issues. The youth's defender emphasizes that men with such conditions were not drafted for statutory service in the past.

Roundups continue, during which migrants are being enlisted for military service. At a market in the city of Rostov-on-Don, law enforcement officers from the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) and the Federal Security Service (FSB) issued draft notices to 62 migrants who had acquired Russian citizenship. In a raid on markets in the city of Krasnoyarsk, four draft notices were handed out, four migrants were taken directly to the draft office, and three more men were caught with a fictitious military registration. In Chelyabinsk, security forces conducted raids on construction sites and places selling coniferous trees and pyrotechnics. Reportedly, 30 people were checked. Recent Russian citizens who had received citizenship were given draft notices for enlistment; however, their number is not specified.

Authorities and Relatives of Mobilized Soldiers

Boris Vishnevsky, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg, submitted an appeal to the Ministry of Defense requesting support for the proposal to limit the period of service under partial mobilization to one year. He prepared this proposal in response to a collective appeal to him from military spouses. The MoD responded to Vishnevsky, stating that the term of military service for citizens called up under mobilization ends at the conclusion of the partial mobilization period based on the presidential decree, and that the ministry considers limiting the service period to be inexpedient.

Municipal deputies from the Smolninskoye municipal district of Saint Petersburg recorded a video address to Putin, demanding that he sign a decree on demobilization and cease the war with Ukraine.

Mobilized Soldiers, Volunteer Fighters and Contract Soldiers

The list of mobilized soldiers killed in the war has been updated to include Mazan Erdneyev from Russia's constituent republic of Kalmykia, Oleg Ilinov from the Irkutsk region and Sergey Melnikov from the Perm region [Russia's federal subject].

Rustyam Abushaev, Mayor of the town of Bolshoy Kamen in the Primorsky region [Russia's federal subject], who evaded criminal prosecution by going to war, has been awarded a second medal—this time "For Bravery." In August, he had already received the Order of Courage for "the capture of NATO trophies." In March, Abushaev was placed on the federal wanted list for large-scale fraud and illegal entrepreneurship charges. Although a court initially issued an arrest warrant in absentia for the former mayor, it soon rescinded the order. Eventually, he was removed from the wanted list altogether. The Sota media outlet has extensively detailed Abushaev’s story.

A former convict, recruited for war from a penal colony and who later fled from the frontline, told Novaya Gazeta Europe [the European edition of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta] that commanders from the Storm-Z unit extort from those who have transgressed, demanding about 15,000–20,000 rubles [$160-200] for release from "basements." Furthermore, the commanders force payments for the use of vehicles that soldiers personally purchased near the frontline. The man also corroborated reports that the wounded are sent back from hospitals to the frontline under-treated, and these wounded soldiers can even be ordered to go to forward positions.

The Voyennye Advokaty [Military Lawyers] Telegram channel attempted to determine the legal status of the ex-convicts recruited into Storm-Z units. Despite numerous anonymous appeals from convicts or their relatives, none of the applicants were able to demonstrate their contracts to the lawyers. All of them claim that they were pardoned and freed in exchange for participating in combat operations for six months, signing contracts with representatives of the MoD. According to the lawyers, this does not correspond to the amendments to the "On Military Duty and Military Service Act" introduced in the summer of 2023, as those amendments imply release on probation and service until the end of mobilization. The conditions offered to Storm-Z unit fighters mirror those offered to "volunteer formations," but convicts and even those under investigation are barred from joining these formations. While the agency-level acts regulating the status of Storm-Z units remain unclear, the response of the Prosecutor's Office of the Southern Military District to one fighter suggests that participants in Storm-Z units have a distinctive legal status. This conclusion is indirectly confirmed by pro-Russian propagandist and supply volunteer Anastasia Kashevarova. She notes that Storm-Z unit fighters complain about not being assigned personal numbers and not receiving ID tags. In response to her request, the MoD stated that "the assignment of personal numbers and the issuance of ID tags to citizens assigned to Storm-Z units is not provided for by the organizational and administrative documents of the Ministry of Defense." This response suggests that Storm-Z unit fighters may not be considered official service members.

A resident of the Zabaykalsky region [Russia's federal subject] found her killed brother only thanks to an article by the Lyudi Baikala [People of Baikal] independent media outlet about a Wagner Group cemetery. The article featured a photo of his grave; all this time, his family had believed he was in prison.

Sentences, Legal Proceedings and Incidents

The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs has stopped publishing statistics on crimes committed with the use of weapons, as reported by the Mozhem Ob'yasnit [We Can Explain] Telegram channel. Previously, monthly statistics with regional charts were released. According to the latest data from January to September 2023, the "leading regions," such as the Belgorod, Bryansk, and Kursk regions bordering Ukraine, witnessed a surge in crimes committed with the use of weapons, increasing from 5 to 17 times compared to the previous period. However, in the statistics from January to October, information on armed crimes and regional charts disappeared. The new report highlights a noticeable increase in the number of crimes related to illegal arms trafficking.

In Nizhny Novgorod, a war participant was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony for murdering his wife. In April 2023, the man, on leave, quarreled with his wife during alcohol consumption, then he stabbed her at least five times with a knife in front of their young children. The woman died before medical assistance could arrive.

According to the Astra Telegram channel, Aleksandr Chernushkin, a serviceman from the 562nd Regiment of Rosgvardia [the Russian National Guard] detonated ammunition in a five-story residential building in the town of Verkhny Ufaley, Chelyabinsk region. Seven people were evacuated from the building, and the soldier had his hand severed. He explained to rescuers that a "firecracker exploded" in his hands.

A military court in the Kamchatka region sentenced mobilized soldier Sergey Mandyatov to two and a half years in a penal settlement for failure to execute orders. After the verdict, he plans to go to the frontline, hoping that the sentence will be canceled once he reaches forward positions.

A military court in Sakhalin sentenced serviceman Aleksandr Ivanitsky to two years and nine months of imprisonment for failure to execute the commander's order to go to the frontline.

A court in the Krasnodar region sentenced a serviceman to seven years in a penal colony for going AWOL and desertion. In October 2022, he was conscripted and then sent to the frontline, from where he escaped home. In June 2023, he was detained, but in August, he escaped again and was arrested in September. During the court hearing, he stated that he escaped because he did not want to return to the war.

Armenian authorities have addressed the issue of the purported "departure" to Russia of mobilized soldier Dmitry Setrakov. They specifically stated that they have not received any requests from Russia regarding Setrakov. Information regarding his search by Russian authorities and his discovery within Armenian territory is reportedly nonexistent. Consequently, Armenian authorities have admitted that there are no legal grounds for Setrakov’s return to Russia.

The Military Prosecutor's Office of the Black Sea Fleet has not identified any misconduct by officials in the military unit where 19-year-old conscript Andrey Lazhiev died under unspecified circumstances. The supervisory authority reported the results of the inspection in a letter to the dead soldier's father.

A 41-year-old female resident of Volgograd has been detained for attempting to set fire to a draft office. After igniting a multi-rocket firework in the draft office's hall, she tried to flee. No criminal case has been initiated yet, and her motives remain unknown.

In Saratov, a fire broke out in a museum dedicated to the "history of the special military operation," which had opened in summer 2023. No one was injured, but the front door burned down. The Astra media outlet reports that authorities have detained 21-year-old local resident Maksim Kim and charged him with arson.

In Kaluga, law enforcement officers have charged 16-year-old Iliya A. and Ivan Kh. with treason. They accuse the two youths of setting fire in July 2023 to a cell tower belonging to the MTS mobile network operator. No one was injured in the incident. Authorities claim that the two high school students acted on instructions from a "Freedom of Russia Legion" handler and have imposed a travel ban on them while legal proceedings are underway.

The Saratov regional court found two local residents guilty of sabotage for setting fire to a relay cabinet in the town of Engels. The court decided that the crime was committed by a group of persons by prior conspiracy. Consequently, it sentenced Nikita Tischenko, 21, to 10 years of imprisonment and sent a 17-year-old youth, whose name has not been disclosed, to a juvenile correctional facility for five years.

In Yekaterinburg, a court sentenced Nikolay Yuryev to 18 years of imprisonment on charges of "aiding terrorist activities," "preparation for an act of terror," and "undergoing training for the purpose of carrying out terrorist activities" for attempting to set fire to a draft office in Novouralsk in February 2023.

The Astra Telegram channel learned details of the arrest in Izhevsk of local resident Pavel Lekomtsev, suspected of plotting an assassination against one of the leaders of a military-industrial complex enterprise. According to investigators, while on Russian territory, he joined the "Freedom of Russia Legion" and received a task to attempt the assassination of Aleksandr Zakharov, the chief designer and co-owner of Zala Aero, a company producing drones. Criminal cases have been initiated on charges of attempted murder and terrorism, and the man is detained until Jan. 19, 2024.

In the Khabarovsk region, a court sentenced a man to nine and a half years in a penal colony for espionage in favor of Ukraine. The man was previously arrested in Komsomolsk-on-Amur on suspicion of transmitting information to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

As reported by the Pervy Otdel [First Department] human rights project, in 2023, 63 cases of treason were brought to court, and another seven were initiated on the charge of confidential cooperation with a foreign state, a law introduced in 2022. Human rights advocates are calling this a historical maximum. More details about the year’s results can be found in the project report.

As calculated by Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet], in 2023 in Russia, at least 101 people have been involved in criminal cases on charges of treason, espionage and cooperation with foreign states or organizations. Many files in this category are "hidden," so the real number of the accused could be greater.

The Kit media outlet reports that by the fall of 2023, anti-war activists in Russia had carried out no fewer than 300 direct actions, including 128 arsons of draft offices, 111 acts of sabotage against railway facilities, and 15 attacks on cars and military vehicles with Z symbols.