President Putin has signed into law several related bills concerning Rosgvardia [the Russian National Guard].These bills, previously approved by the State Duma and the Federation Council [lower and upper houses of the Federal Assembly of Russia, respectively] introduce significant changes. Rosgvardia is now authorized to muster volunteer fighter units (read more), capable of executing "specific defense tasks" in the event of martial law, mobilization, an armed conflict, or a counter-terrorism operation. The decision to form these units rests with the president. Additionally, amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code on Administrative Offenses extend the articles on "discrediting" and spreading "fakes" to Rosgvardia, so that the same penalties apply. Moreover, the amended legislation now allows conscripts to perform their compulsory military service within the ranks of the Federal Security Service (FSB), provided they are not citizens or permanent residents of other countries, have no current or sealed criminal record, do not use drugs, and have not been designated as "foreign agents." All these changes come into force on the date of their official publication.
Putin also signed a bill into law providing for the termination of obligations of surety contracts for veterans who were killed or disabled during the "special military operation." Additionally, the legislation extends the deadline for servicemen and their family members to apply for payment holiday until the end of 2024.
The federal government has decided not to endorse a bill introduced by Mikhail Matveyev, a member of the State Duma from the Communist Party. The bill, presented in August, aimed to penalize naturalized citizens evading military service by revoking their Russian citizenship.
The authorities of the Tomsk region have allocated 2.8 billion rubles [$30.3 million] for the "development of unmanned aircraft systems," while 2.5 billion [$27.1 million] is allocated for culture, 2.4 billion [$26.0 million] for utilities and 846 million rubles [$9.16 million] for sports development. The overall budget for the region in 2024 is set at 110 billion rubles [$1.2 billion].
The graduation ceremony for lieutenants of the Tyumen Higher Military Engineering Command School in the city of Tyumen took place six months ahead of schedule. In the near future, these officers will be deployed to their assigned military service.
Participants of the Put Domoy [Way Home] movement, uniting relatives of mobilized soldiers, claimed that the President of the Russian Federation's decree on mobilization was issued in violation of the Constitution, as martial law was not in effect at the time of its signing. President Putin signed the mobilization decree on Sept. 21, 2022, while martial law in the occupied territories was imposed a month later on Oct. 22. According to activists, in the absence of martial law, the president lacks the authority to change the procedure of military service, including grounds for dismissal and service terms. They assert that such changes fall exclusively within the competence of the legislative branch. In light of this, activists have expressed their intention to seek the annulment of the president's decision on mobilization and have requested the assistance of media and lawyers to bring the case to the Constitutional Court.
The Mozhem Ob'yasnit [We Can Explain] Telegram channel drew attention to the discontent among relatives of mobilized soldiers regarding the authorities’ "compensation" for refusing to return their husbands from the war in Ukraine with candies and tickets to New Year parties. In some regions, authorities have announced New Year’s payments for the children of individuals participating in the invasion of Ukraine.
The list of mobilized soldiers killed in the war has been updated to include Alikhan Ismailov from Russia’s constituent Republic of Dagestan, Vladimir Veremchuk from the Omsk region, Ruslan Chibin from Russia’s constituent republic of Komi, Mikhail Zhuravlyov from the Krasnoyarsk region, Maksim Mirenkov from the Tver region, Ayrat Rakhmatullin from the Orenburg region, Aleksandr Sukhoverkin from Russia’s constituent republic of Buryatia, Artyom Shevchenko from the Rostov region and Ivan Loshkaryov from the Irkutsk region.
The Defenders of the Fatherland Fund in the Murmansk region stated that the fund had received over 100 sets of documents from former Wagner Group mercenaries with the aim of recognizing them as combat veterans. On Dec. 22, the first certificates were ceremoniously presented to four mercenaries. Earlier, relatives of killed Wagner Group members had repeatedly complained about difficulties in obtaining veteran certificates.
As calculated by the Vyorstka media outlet, more than 190 criminal cases have been initiated against former Wagner Group mercenaries pardoned by Putin. These cases include theft, robbery, murder, causing grievous bodily harm, drug consumption and distribution, and attacks on government officials. Details of 105 sentences are known from the 160 criminal cases found in the records. Notably, in only 12 cases were the guilty parties sentenced to actual prison terms. The majority received suspended sentences, mandatory or compulsory labor, fines, or their cases were terminated due to reconciliation between the parties. Exceptions mainly involve cases where crimes lead to human casualties, although this is not a mandatory rule.
Human rights activists from the Public Verdict Foundation have achieved the initiation of a criminal case against the head of a field military detention facility of the military commandant’s office. The charges against him include negligence in connection with the death of a mobilized soldier from the Irkutsk region. Initially, the case was opened on charges of inciting suicide but was later reclassified.
In the Khabarovsk region [Russia’s federal subject], a 22-year-old mobilized soldier has been sentenced to seven years in a penal colony for going AWOL. Earlier, he had escaped from his unit and received a five-year probation, as he had voluntarily turned himself in and expressed remorse. However, upon his second attempt to go AWOL, he was apprehended and subsequently sentenced to imprisonment under the same charge.
In Saint Petersburg, nurse Maksim Asriyan, who was arrested in October 2022 for allegedly trying to set fire to a military commissariat [enlistment office] and charged with attempted act of terrorism, now faces another criminal case on charges of state treason. The details of the case have not been disclosed by Asriyan’s lawyer, citing a non-disclosure agreement.
In Russia's constituent republic of Chuvashia, the Alatyr district court has sentenced Nikita Kitaykin to a year and six months of forced labor in connection with a case involving an attempted arson on a railroad.. According to investigators, Kitaykin drove two other suspects in the case, Artyom Begoyan and Denis Golubev, to the railway, unaware of their intentions.
In Komi [Russia's constituent republic], an elderly woman named Nadezhda Kornilova has been sentenced to five years in a penal colony for attempting to set fire to a draft office. She was found guilty of preparing for an act of terror. It is worth noting that during the hearing, the prosecution had requested a 12-year prison sentence for Kornilova.
In Moscow, the former editor-in-chief of the Zab.ru media outlet from the Zabaykalsky region, Nika Novak, has been arrested on charges of "cooperation on a confidential basis with a foreign state." The case is classified as "secret," and its details are not disclosed.
In the Irkutsk region, individuals with disabilities and elderly people living in a shelter collected money for the military just before the New Year, as reported by the Lyudi Baikala [People of Baikal] independent media outlet. They successfully collected 12,500 rubles [$140].
Another shipment of aid was sent from Vladivostok to the frontline, consisting of equipment, supplies and New Year's provisions for the military.
After the media attention, the post about the Hero of Our Time lesson held by the ex-convict from the Wagner Group Alaberdy Karazhaev at a school in Ulyanovsk, was removed from the school's VKontakte [social network] page. Journalists found out that in 2016, the man had been sentenced to nine years for murder.
The Federal Service for Supervision in Education and Science (Rosobrnadzor) has announced that in 2024, the Unified State Exam [graduation examination in Russia's schools] will feature an increased number of questions related to occupied territories.
The Federal Antimonopoly Service has revealed violations in the activities of the Avangard military-patriotic center in Vladimir. The center purchased shooting simulators for military training without conducting a bidding process, amounting to 12 million rubles [$131,100].
Novaya Gazeta Europe [European edition of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta] has released an investigation detailing how the restoration of houses in occupied territories has resulted in the disruption of capital repairs for housing in the Moscow region.