The federal government has issued a resolution to index certain payments to Russian military personnel and members of volunteer fighter units by 4.5%. The change will come into force on Jan. 1, 2024 and will impact various aspects, including monthly salaries and insurance payments in the event of disability or death.
RBC [Russian media group] reports that the Ministry of Defense has disclosed demographic and social data on mobilized soldiers. A total of 302,503 individuals were mobilized, with over 33,000 allegedly voluntarily reporting to a draft office without waiting for a draft notice. At the time of mobilization, the average age was 35. Notably, 96.4% of these individuals had previous military service experience, indicating that more than 10,000 mobilized soldiers had not completed compulsory military service. 7% of all mobilized soldiers held a higher education degree, 30% had vocational diplomas and 63% had only completed secondary education. 57% were married, 31% had one child and 25% had two. Additionally, 0.3% had three children, highlighting instances where authorities appeared to disregard the policy, announced by Andrey Kartapolov, Chairman of the Defense Committee of the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia], to exempt fathers of three children from mobilization.
Other than that, Russia’s Ministry of Defense has disclosed the number of contract soldiers serving in its ranks, which amounts to over 640,000. According to the agency, more than 40,000 men joined the war as members of BARS (Special Combat Army Reserve) volunteer units, with over 7,000 of them currently on active duty in the combat zone. It should be noted that during his annual phone-in Direct Line held on Dec. 14, Putin claimed that 486,000 men had signed up for contract military service over the course of 2023, while Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council Dmitry Medvedev on Dec. 28 reported of as many as 500,000 civilians who had enrolled in contract service since the beginning of the year. The last time the authorities had announced the number of contract soldiers before the invasion was in 2020 when Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu estimated it to be above 405,000. The authorities provide no explanation on how these estimates relate to each other.
The Ministry of Defense has issued a regulation regarding paperless digital IDs for veterans and the family members of deceased fighters. The Sota media outlet believes that this move will make the number of such ID holders harder to track. It is worth recalling that in September, the Vyorstka media outlet discovered an order for the procurement of blank ID cards, namely 757,305 IDs for the war veterans and 230,000 IDs for the family members of deceased soldiers.
Russian authorities continue their raids targeting migrant workers who recently obtained a Russian passport but yet failed to complete their military registration. In the city of Tyumen, law enforcement agents swept through a number of construction sites and car washes. Those arrested were brought to the police station, only to be handed draft notices and to be invited to sign up for contract military service in the war zone. For more details on how these raids are conducted, check out this longread on 72.RU [Tyumen city online media outlet].
The list of mobilized soldiers killed in the war has been updated to include Sergey Sautkin from the Ryazan region, Viktor Kulabukhov from the Belgorod region, Igor Vedernikov and Sergey Marasanov from the Krasnodar region, Valentin Kostin from the Rostov region, Sergey Polshakov from the Stavropol region, Nikolay Tegentsev from the Sverdlovsk region and Sergey Rykov from the Volgograd region.
According to the Astra Telegram channel, soldiers drafted into military service may have been on the Novocherkassk large landing ship, which was destroyed during a missile strike by the Armed Forces of Ukraine at the port of Feodosia. Currently, according to ASTRA’s sources, out of the 77 crew members on board, 33 are missing in action, and 19 are reported injured. The VChK-OGPU Telegram channel adds that, in addition to the 33 sailors, 4 conscripted soldiers are also missing.
According to Dovod [independent Russian media outlet], at least 384 residents of the Vladimir region have already been killed in the war with Ukraine. This number is five times higher than the casualties reported during 10 years of combat operations in Afghanistan.
Relatives of a Russian serviceman claim that near the town of Vyborg, the military police attempted to send him back to the combat zone despite his wounds, including a broken leg. According to the family, the mobilized soldier was recovering from a serious injury and had difficulty moving normally. The man was waiting for the medical evaluation board's decision on whether he was fit for further service. Despite this, military police officers, who arrived in the morning to dispatch personnel to the war, took him to the train station to forcefully board a train heading back to the frontline. Other soldiers began recording the incident, and, according to them, thanks to their intervention, the man was not forcibly placed on the train. However, he has not been seen in the military unit since then.
About 20 servicemen from the 1st Motorized Rifle Brigade have complained that they have been unable to receive injury-related payments for several months. They allege that the command intentionally fails to record their injuries in a combat operations journal. Additionally, soldiers are often sent back to the frontlines without proper medical treatment.
Three unlawfully mobilized residents of the city of Achinsk have managed to return home a year after a court decision. They were mobilized in the fall of 2022, despite having draft deferral certificates from their employer. Regardless of the court ruling in their favor, the military commissariats of Krasnoyarsk and Achinsk, as well as the city administration and the prosecutor's office, were reportedly unable to help, with local parliament member Dmitry Kulikov stating that "everyone refers to each other, saying they do not have the authority to submit a petition for their discharge." The issue was resolved only after an appeal to the State Duma, and on Dec. 25, the mobilized soldiers returned home.
The city council of Omsk has terminated the powers of Konstantin Kochanov, a council member from the United Russia party [Putin’s ruling party], stating that he expressed a desire to sign a contract to participate in the "special military operation." According to local media reports, Kochanov might have joined the war to avoid attention from law enforcement agencies.
As reported by ASTRA, on Dec. 26, unknown individuals in military uniforms with weapons assaulted businessman Artyom Dzygovsky in his own home in the occupied part of the Kherson region. They beat and tortured him, eventually injuring him with a knife to the neck. The man was subsequently sent to a hospital. Preliminary information suggests that Russian military personnel committed the crime.
In Tomsk, a military court has sentenced military serviceman Kezhik Tyvaa from Tyva [constituent republic of Russia] to six years and five months in a penal colony for resisting a superior during the mobilization period. According to the court, a military patrol was attempting to detain the intoxicated serviceman, but the latter hit the military patrol chief in the chest with his palm and then to the back of the head with a fist.
In Chita, a military court has sentenced soldier Erdyni Zhambalov to seven years in a penal colony for going AWOL twice. Criminal investigation officers detained him on Aug. 4.
The Ulan-Ude Garrison Military Court has sentenced contract soldier Roman Dashiev to five and a half years in a penal colony for going AWOL. Dashiev left the army in March 2023 to spend time with his family and surrendered to the military police at the end of April. The same court found another contract soldier, Sergey Kochetkov, guilty of going AWOL. He did not return to duty in July, and the military police found him in Ulan-Ude on Aug. 10.
An improvised explosive device has been discovered at a railway substation in Yaroslavl. According to the SHOT Telegram channel, during a morning check on Dec. 26, a duty officer found an IED near a cabin substation at the Filino station. The police are searching for the unidentified individuals who planted the device.
The First Eastern District Military Court has sentenced 46-year-old Omsk resident Anton Smolyaninov to 15 years in a penal colony for an act of terror involving the arson of vehicles displaying Z symbols. Smolyaninov was arrested on Dec. 30 of last year while attempting to set fire to a cabin substation. During interrogation, he admitted to burning three cars with Z symbols due to his negative stance on the war with Ukraine. The man was initially charged with deliberate property damage; however, later, the case was later reclassified as an act of terror.
In a separate case, a 30-year-old resident of the Ivanovo region has been sentenced to six years of imprisonment for an act of terror. According to investigators, the man planned to set fire to a draft office building in Ivanovo to “destabilize its operations.” The convicted individual, identified as Danila Demchenko by Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet],was apprehended in December 2022. Demchenko's verdict was issued on Oct. 5, 2023, and on Dec. 21, the Military Appellate Court upheld the sentence.
The Second Western District Military Court has sentenced blogger from the Lipetsk region Feliks Eliseyev to 14 years in a penal colony on charges of public justification of terrorism and high treason. In December 2022, Eliseyev was arrested under charges of justification of terrorism due to anti-war posts in a Telegram channel, and nine months later he was also accused of transferring cryptocurrency to a citizen of Ukraine. According to law enforcement officers, the money was used to purchase gear for the AFU.
In Moscow, a court has sentenced Artyom Kamardin and Yegor Shtovba to seven and five and a half years in prison, respectively, for participating in the Mayakovsky Readings poetry event. The poets were found guilty of inciting activities aimed at undermining state security, inciting hatred or enmity, as well as humiliating human dignity. The men were arrested in September 2022 after reading poems on Triumfalnaya Square in Moscow. The prosecutors’ theory is that Kamardin's poems called for not taking draft notices from representatives of military commissariats, not signing acknowledgements of receiving draft notices and not reporting to military commissariats. Soon after Kamardin's arrest, it became known that he had been subjected to torture, including sexual violence. Mediazona published the final pleas of Kamardin and Shtovba, and the Ostorozhno, Novosti [Beware the news] Telegram channel posted a poem by Kamardin. About ten people were detained near the court after the verdict was announced, and administrative protocols were drawn up against them.
Under the charge of high treason, the Krasnodar Regional Court has sentenced a man to 12 years in prison. He was accused of transferring information about a local military airfield to the AFU.
Two residents of the Sverdlovsk region have been sentenced for attempted arson of draft offices. Nikolay Yuryev was detained in February 2023—he allegedly tried to set fire to a draft office in the town of Novouralsk using a Molotov cocktail and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Mikhail Nikitin is charged with preparing arson in the Kirovsky district of Yekaterinburg and will spend six years behind bars.
Volunteers from Buryatia [Russia's constituent republic] have reported on sending cosmetics to a Rostov morgue, where the bodies of those killed in the war are brought daily. Cosmetics are needed to prepare corpses for funerals. Meanwhile, convicts of a maximum security penal colony in Ulan-Ude have woven four camouflage nets for the participants of the war.
The New Year’s Gift to a Soldier campaign has been held in Russian regions. Local residents collected items, food and wrote greetings postcards. Meanwhile, workers from the Orenburg Gidropress factory have chipped in to buy a tractor for digging trenches. 19 tons of canned fish have been sent from Sakhalin to the frontline, and 3 tons of dumplings have been sent from Udmurtia [Russia's constituent republic].
According to research by Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, independent Russian investigative media outlet], Russian schoolchildren celebrate more military holidays than professional soldiers. In four months, schools have observed at least 13 memorial dates.
Authorities of the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region–Yugra [Russia's federal subject] have organized sports-patriotic camps with psychological support for teenagers from the families of war in Ukraine participants.
More than two dozen Russian regions have decided to refrain from organizing New Year's fireworks. Bryansk, Belgorod, Kursk, Voronezh, Rostov regions, Crimea, Sevastopol, most regions in the European part of Russia, Moscow and Saint Petersburg are among them. Fireworks will also be canceled in cities beyond the Ural: Novosibirsk, Chita and Irkutsk. Regional and local authorities mostly explain the cancellation of fireworks due to safety concerns and their inappropriateness during the "special military operation" period.
The Vyorstka media outlet conducted a thorough content research from 73 pro-government and far-right Telegram channels and VKontakte social network public pages addressing the topic of migrants. In 2023, conservative and pro-Kremlin media outlets set a record for the highest number of posts, broadcasts and articles on migrants in the past five years. These publications openly labeled migrants as a threat and actively employed hate speech against them.
The Spektr [Spectrum] media outlet conducted an interview with a member of the Put Domoy [Way Home] movement, focusing on her husband's mobilization and her endeavors to bring him home. Another member of the movement, Aleksandra Gladkova, shared with Sibir.Realii that military spouses are opposed to a potential second wave of mobilization, expressing a collective desire for an end to the ongoing war. Simultaneously, the Astra Telegram channel interviewed an administrator and an active member of the Put Domoy movement. They were questioned about their awareness of Russia's role in attacking a neighboring country, their husbands' involvement in the war, the identity behind the movement, and the reasons behind the backlash it has faced from the Kremlin and military activists.
Meanwhile, the Sever.Realii [part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty] online media outlet delved into the challenges faced by relatives of those missing in action in the war with Ukraine, highlighting their struggles in searching for loved ones without any government assistance. On a related note, the Sibir.Realii online media outlet, another part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, presented a piece on criminals pardoned by Putin. Surprisingly, people convicted of serious crimes such as strangling a woman, a neighbor dismembering maniac and a repeat offender alcoholic were released and have since engaged in the war against Ukraine. After being pardoned six months later, all three committed further crimes, including murder.