mobilization briefs
February 17

Mobilization in Russia for Feb. 15-16, 2024 CIT Volunteer Summary

Alexei Navalny’s Death

On Feb. 16 at 2:19 p.m. local time, the Federal Penitentiary Service of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region reported the death of Alexei Navalny in maximum security penal colony No. 3 in the village of Kharp. The agency stated that "all necessary resuscitation measures were taken, which did not yield positive results." Emergency doctors pronounced Navalny dead. Interfax [Russian news agency], citing the Labytnangi Municipal Hospital, reported that doctors attempted to resuscitate Navalny for over half an hour. The hospital stated that the ambulance reached the colony in less than 7 minutes, and medical personnel entered it in two minutes. The distance from the Labytnangi Municipal Hospital to penal colony No. 3 is a 36-minute drive (34.2 km). Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty uncovers even more inconsistencies in the official narrative.

The 112 Telegram channel, associated with law enforcement agencies, claims that the alleged cause of Navalny's death is a "detached blood clot." However, this has not been confirmed officially. According to the Federal Penitentiary Service, a commission will be sent to the penal colony, where Navalny died.

On Feb. 15, Alexei Navalny appeared via video link in the Kovrov City Court and looked relatively healthy. Navalny’s lawyer Leonid Solovyov also stated that the defense had visited Navalny on Wednesday, and "everything was fine" at that time. However, he refused to provide additional comments. Eva Merkachyova, a human rights activist and member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, suggested that Navalny's continuous confinement in a punitive solitary cell might have contributed to his death. Subsequently, a news story featuring her statement was removed from the MSK1 online news outlet. Anna Karetnikova, a former employee of the Federal Penitentiary Service and member of a public monitoring commission, stated that prison doctors often use the thrombus issue as a universal explanation for the deaths of convicts, as this diagnosis is difficult to verify. Human rights activists and doctors shared their opinions on this diagnosis with Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, independent Russian investigative media outlet].

Mediazona, an independent Russian media outlet, has provided a detailed account of how the Russian authorities undermined Navalny's health. The publication highlights that the politician died on the 1126th day in a Russian prison. He spent almost a third of his sentence in a punitive solitary confinement cell in unbearable conditions. Vyorstka, another media outlet, collected evidence of how prison administrations deliberately created unbearable conditions for Navalny. Meanwhile, the Agentstvo.Novosti [Agency News] Telegram channel shared comprehensive information about the politician's last day and the events leading up to his death.

Navalny's lawyer flew to Kharp, where the penal colony No. 3 is located. This was reported by Navalny's press secretary, Kira Yarmysh. She noted that there is currently no confirmation of the politician's death. According to Navalny's associate, Ivan Zhdanov, authorities are obliged to notify the relatives within a day, but as of the statement, no such notification had been received. Nevertheless, he acknowledges that "Alexei Navalny was killed with a high degree of probability." Zhdanov placed responsibility for the incident on Putin.

Sources close to the authorities of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region have informed Vyorstka that the death of the politician supposedly came as a "surprise" to them. According to these sources, local Federal Penitentiary Service officials were sending Navalny to a punitive solitary confinement cell on orders from Moscow but were expected to ensure that he did not die. The United Russia party [Putin’s ruling party] apparatus has reportedly requested State Duma members not to comment on Navalny's death, while employees of state media have been instructed to limit themselves to reporting "event news" about his death. Journalists from state media are being asked not to cover further statements made by public figures about the politician's death.

During an hour-long speech following a meeting with staff members from Chelyabinsk enterprises, Putin did not find the time to comment on Navalny's death. However, according to Russian President’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Putin is aware of what happened.

Navalny's wife, Yulia, spoke at the Munich conference, "But if it is true, I want Putin, his entire circle, Putin's friends and his government to know: they must bear responsibility for what they have done to our country, my family and my husband. And that day will come very soon." Vazhnyye Istorii has provided a full transcript of her speech.

In response to the question of what Russians should do if he is killed, Aleksei Navalny said, "Don't give up." The recording was made during the filming of Daniel Roher's movie "Navalny," which won the Oscar in 2023.

Russian public figures, including the former editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta Dmitry Muratov, political scientist Ekaterina Schulmann, sociologist Grigoriy Yudin, journalists Roman Anin and Andrey Loshak and human rights advocate Igor Kalyapin, have reacted to the news of Navalny's death. Additional responses from several other figures are shared by Vazhnyye Istorii and Vyorstka.

Western leaders and European Union officials have also spoken out on the death of Alexei Navalny. Charles Michel, President of the European Council, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy have attributed Navalny's death to Russian authorities. Comments on Navalny's death have been issued by US President Joe Biden, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the European Union's Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and leader of the Belarusian opposition Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. Additionally, Meduza, an international Russian-language online media outlet, has compiled a range of statements from Russian and Western figures. Agentstvo.Novosti has reported that nations of the Global South did not acknowledge the news of Navalny's death, as none of their leaders commented on the death of the Russian opposition leader. Moreover, journalists have pointed out the activity of "Kremlin bots," which have started to argue that it would not be advantageous for Russian authorities to kill Navalny, instead blaming the West for his death. According to estimates by the Botnadzor project, these bots have posted nearly 1,500 such comments.

Memorial events honoring Alexei Navalny are scheduled to take place in at least 23 countries worldwide and over 10 cities in Russia, as reported by the Kovcheg [Ark] project.

In a tribute to the memory of Navalny, residents across Russian cities, including Moscow (1, 2), Saint Petersburg (1, 2, 3), Kazan (1, 2, 3), Novosibirsk, Ulyanovsk, Serov, Kirov, Yaroslavl, Tomsk, Nizhny Novgorod (1, 2), Belgorod, Tver (1, 2), Elista, Balashikha, Vorkuta, Syktyvkar, Kaliningrad, Krasnodar, Vologda, Perm, Lipetsk, Arkhangelsk and others, are bringing flowers and notes to monuments dedicated to victims of political repression.

Police have been taking measures to prevent public mourning events. In Tomsk, law enforcement were recording everyone who laid flowers. In Novosibirsk, police cordoned off the monument to the victims of political repression, where people were bringing flowers. In Murmansk, a woman was detained for a one-person picket. Additionally, at least 11 more people were detained while laying flowers in Nizhny Novgorod. According to the OVD-Info independent human rights project, one more person was detained in Rostov-on-Don, where police were collecting the data of citizens at the monument to the victims of political repression. In Kazan, police dispersed those who gathered at the monument to the victims of political repression, categorizing the laying of flowers in memory of Navalny as an unauthorized action.

Police, accompanied by police vans, were present at the Solovetsky Stone on Lubyanka Street in Moscow, where Muscovites had lined up to lay flowers. A teenager who unfolded a poster with the word "Murderer" written on it was detained. Near the Wall of Grief monument, a woman was detained for a solitary protest. The Moscow Prosecutor’s Office issued a warning against calling for or participating in unauthorized mass gatherings. In Saint Petersburg, law enforcement dispersed those who came to monuments to victims of political repression.

Mourning events also took place outside Russia, including in Paris (1, 2), France; Berlin and Bonn, Germany; Riga, Latvia; Vilnius (1, 2, 3), Lithuania; Tallinn, Estonia; Tbilisi (1, 2) and Batumi (1, 2), Georgia; Yerevan (1, 2, 3), Armenia; Belgrade (1, 2, 3), Serbia; Tel Aviv (1, 2, 3, 4) and Haifa (1, 2, 3), Israel; Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Kirkenes, Norway; and various other cities worldwide.

Authorities and Legislation

Russian authorities have published their strategy for youth policy development until 2030. The Groza [Thunderstorm] student media outlet highlighted several objectives from the document, including:

  • "Nurturing among the youth a sense of ownership of the heroic Russian past and pride in its modern history," as well as "promoting traditional family values, motherhood, fatherhood, and large families."
  • "Developing the youth's potential and realizing it in the interest of the Russian Federation, including the willingness to serve the Motherland in all spheres," "enhancing the prestige of military service," and "preventing the youth from committing crimes or participating in antisocial behavior."
  • Involving young people in support provided to participants of the war against Ukraine through the Association of Volunteer Centers and the Defenders of the Fatherland Fund. Concurrently, integrating war veterans into youth "education," particularly in colleges and universities.

Army Recruitment and Military Service Advertising

The Mozhem Ob'yasnit [We Can Explain] Telegram channel reports that convicts who refused to enlist are nevertheless forced to contribute to the war effort. Authorities coerce them to work "rear jobs," such as sewing equipment or assembling tanks, rockets and stoves. Their work is virtually unpaid, since convicts’ salaries are always extremely low.

The Nizhne-Volzhky Pipe Plant promised new employees almost a million rubles [$10,900] if they voluntarily sign a contract with the Ministry of Defense. The plant also offers a bonus of 50,000 rubles [$540] for bringing a friend willing to sign a contract.

The head of the urban planning commission of the Krasnoyarsk city council, Vyacheslav Dyukov, who previously stated that contracts for military service are mainly signed by "alcoholics, homeless individuals, derelicts and convicts," wrote a post the next day apologizing for his statement. In addition, Dyukov's words will be reviewed by the city council's ethics commission.

Mobilized Soldiers, Volunteer Fighters and Contract Soldiers

The list of mobilized soldiers killed in the war has been updated to include Andrey Mamaev from the Kirovsk region and Roman Zhulin from the Vladimir region.

Families of mobilized soldiers from the 361st Regiment in Voronezh have reported that commanders used threats to force their relatives to go to the frontline, despite being classified as temporarily unfit for military service. The military police forcibly put men, who were undergoing rehabilitation after being wounded, into transport vehicles. For example, despite suffering from severe health issues, Aleksey Smirnov was forcefully taken to Rogovo in the Luhansk region, and contact with him was lost afterward. Aleksandr Pereselov, who was awaiting surgery and deemed temporarily unfit for military service, was nevertheless also sent to participate in the "special military operation."

In the war with Ukraine, a resident of Urshelsky settlement in the Vladimir region, Rustam Kerimbaev, voluntarily surrendered himself as a captive. According to the commander, Kerimbaev consistently refused to participate in combat operations. He was sentenced to two years in prison for the charge of going AWOL. Following his release from prison, Kerimbaev went to war, ultimately surrendering himself into captivity.

Sentences, Legal Proceedings and Incidents

In another incident, a police officer from the Moscow region confessed to torturing a Ukrainian to death alongside four colleagues in the occupied town of Hornostaivka in the Kherson region. On Nov. 20, 2023, after interrogation by Russian Law enforcement officers at the so-called Ministry of Internal Affairs building, 27-year-old Ukrainian Ruslan Rusnak died. Attempts were made to extract a confession from him regarding the Armed Forces of Ukraine alleged drone attack on the police station on Nov. 13. The police officers have recently been detained, and an occupying Investigative Committee has initiated a case for exceeding official powers.

While on leave, a Russian soldier from Tuva fatally stabbed a person with impaired mental state during a drunken altercation. The court sentenced the soldier to seven and a half years in a penal colony for murder.

The Garrison Military Court in Kamchatka has sentenced two military personnel to two years and two months in a penal settlement for failure to execute orders—they refused a deployment to Ukraine "under a fabricated pretext." A third military member was sentenced to two years and three months in a penal settlement but was exempted from punishment due to severe illness. Additionally, the court sentenced serviceman Ivan Kostyuk to five and a half years in a penal colony for "failing to fulfill duties during mobilization"—he failed to report to his military unit three times as required by command. Meanwhile, serviceman Dmitry Lebedev, who left his unit in occupied territory but later appeared at the Military Prosecutor's Office in Kamchatka, received four and a half years in a special regime colony.

In Rostov-on-Don, the Garrison Military Court sentenced serviceman A. Malyshev for his absence from his military unit without valid reasons for over three months, increasing his previous theft-related sentence from six to eight years of imprisonment. Malyshev failed to report to his unit on July 4 following his discharge. Authorities searched for him until Oct. 18, 2023.

The Tverskoy Court in Moscow fined Yaroslav Ryazanov 15,000 rubles [$160] and sentenced him to seven days of detention for organizing an unauthorized rally. Ryazanov was detained on Feb. 3 during a protest by the wives of the mobilized.

As reported by the Astra Telegram channel, a parcel with an explosive block was found on Feb. 14 at a Russian Post warehouse in Samara. The parcel arrived at the distribution facility as early as July 2023 and was kept there as it was "unclaimed."

According to the VChK-OGPU Telegram channel, unidentified persons rendered new KAMAZ trucks inoperative. These trucks were being delivered by train from Naberezhnye Chelny to Ukraine. An inspection conducted at the Maslovka station in Voronezh revealed that all six trucks had their ignition wires cut.

A resident of the Zabaykalsky region [Russia's federal subject], charged with assaulting a Wagner Group mercenary, has suffered a significant deterioration of health while in pre-trial detention. Mediazona reports that he recently lost the ability to use his legs, necessitating that the escort physically assist him into the courtroom.

Since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, nearly 5,500 detentions have occurred in Saint Petersburg for anti-war actions—this represents 97.3% of all detentions in 2022 and 2023. The majority of these detentions occurred in 2022, when Saint Petersburg residents took to the streets in large numbers to protest against the onset of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine and mobilization.

According to Vyorstka, at least 29 Russian Orthodox Church priests have been persecuted for their anti-war stance. Between 2022 and 2024, at least five priests of various ranks were defrocked. Another six were removed from their positions, four were fined for "discrediting" the Armed Forces, the same number were either prohibited from serving or suspended, three were stripped of their church duties, and three others faced pressure from law enforcement or the Russian Orthodox Church. Criminal cases were initiated against three priests, two of whom received actual prison sentences.


A large drone manufacturer, the Special Technological Center company, has rented an entire business center in the Vyborgsky district of Saint Petersburg. This is the first time a defense industry enterprise became the largest tenant of office real estate in the city. The company manufactures Orlan reconnaissance drones, which Russia is actively using in the war with Ukraine. In the meantime, in Vladivostok, the authorities plan to develop a public space that would include both a park and a "workshop for the production of goods for the special military operation.”

While discussing the public transport reform in Omsk, the officials touched upon the problems of public transport in the city. Sergey Frolov, director of the Electricheskii Transport [Electric Transport] municipal enterprise, stated that the reason for the lack of drivers (about 10%) was mobilization.


Journalists from Mozhem Ob'yasnit [We Can Explain] spoke with Maria Korolyova, the fiancée of one of the missing crew members of the Novocherkassk large landing ship, Petty Officer Vasily Shevchenko, about the lack of state assistance to the sailors' relatives.

Sociologists from the projects Hroniki [Chronicles], Public Sociology Laboratory, and the ExtremeScan agency shared insights into Russian citizens' perspectives on negotiations with Ukraine and their expectations regarding a "victory" in the war, as reported by Vyorstka.