mobilization briefs
February 27

Mobilization in Russia for Feb. 25-26, 2024 CIT Volunteer Summary

Alexei Navalny’s Death

Alexei Navalny's colleague Maria Pevchikh claimed that shortly before his death negotiations for a prisoner exchange had been under way. According to Pevchikh, Navalny and two US nationals, presumably Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, were supposed to be swapped for Vadim Krasikov, a Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officer serving a life sentence in Germany for the murder of a former Chechen rebel commander Zelimkhan Khangoshvili. "I received confirmation that negotiations were in their final stages on the evening of Feb. 15. On Feb. 16, Alexei was killed," Pevchikh said. She added that it was the Russian business tycoon Roman Abramovich who personally delivered the proposal for the exchange to Vladimir Putin. Navalny’s team decided to seek a "humanitarian exchange," which allows foreign countries to release Russian spies in exchange for political prisoners, two years ago. Investigative journalist Christo Grozev contributed to these efforts. When matching the timeline of the preparation of the exchange with what was happening to Navalny, the Agentstvo.Novosti [Agency News] Telegram channel revealed that the politician was sent to a remote colony above the Arctic Circle immediately after the exchange plan was put into action. The German authorities refused to comment on Pevchikh's statement, but sources of the Financial Times and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung confirmed that discussions on the possibilities of the exchange of Navalny for Krasikov had been ongoing. That said, the German government "was particularly shocked" at the news of Navalny’s death. Since then, Berlin’s interest in a potential deal with the Kremlin has cooled markedly. Representatives of the US authorities confirmed to the New York Times that Germany had made Navalny’s release a condition for the exchange of Krasikov but did not comment on how advanced the negotiation process was.

Navalny's spokesperson Kira Yarmysh announced that the funeral of the late politician is planned to be held later this week. The team are looking for a hall for a public farewell to Navalny. "If you have suitable premises, please contact us," Yarmysh wrote.

During the day, a number of pro-government Telegram channels began to disseminate rumors about the date and location of Navalny’s funeral. Simultaneously, anonymous channels appeared in the messaging app, making claims regarding the funeral date. Navalny’s associates denied any connection between these Telegram channels and their team, labeling them as fake sources of information. Meanwhile, sources of the Vyorstka media outlet asserted that the authorities did not want the funeral to coincide with Vladimir Putin’s address on Feb. 29. Reportedly, the "ideal date" for them would be March 1.

Authorities and Legislation

Putin has signed a decree on the military-administrative division of the Russian Federation. According to the document, effective March 1, the Western Military District will be abolished, and the previously existing Moscow and Leningrad Military Districts will be reinstated. Moreover, the occupied regions of Ukraine will become part of the Southern Military District. As a result, the latter will now include, apart from Crimea and Sevastopol, the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, as well as the "DPR" and "LPR." Finally, the Northern Fleet will cease to be its own military district. On March 1, the regions under its jurisdiction will be transferred to the Leningrad Military District. Thus, the authorities have reverted to the structure that existed before Sept. 1, 2010.

The federal government has committed to allocating more than 4 billion rubles [$42.73 million] to support certain categories of mobilized and contract soldiers. They will receive a monthly allowance that compensates for the full amount of their pension payments. This measure concerns military personnel who, prior to their mobilization or contract signing, had retired from law enforcement agencies, such as the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the Federal Penitentiary Service or Rosgvardia [the Russian National Guard].

Detentions at Various Events

Authorities continue to pursue individuals who participated in anti-war rallies and memorial events related to Alexei Navalny. In Saint Petersburg, criminal proceedings have been initiated against 18-year-old Darya Kozyreva under the charge of repeatedly discrediting the Russian Army. Kozyreva affixed a note with an excerpt from Taras Shevchenko's poem "Legacy" to the monument of Shevchenko on the anniversary of the invasion. Additionally, Anna Sayfutdinova, detained for laying flowers at the Eternal Flame in Yekaterinburg, has been arrested for 13 days. She was found guilty of minor hooliganism coupled with disobedience to law enforcement officers. Journalist Anna Sliva has been assigned 60 hours of compulsory community service for laying flowers at the Wall of Grief monument in Moscow on Feb. 17. In Yekaterinburg, Natalia Kazantseva was fined 15,000 rubles [$160] for participating in an unauthorized rally. On Feb. 10, she laid flowers at the Black Tulip monument honoring those who were killed in Afghanistan and Chechnya [Russia's constituent republic]. In Kazan, Ruslan Zinatullin, the head of the regional branch of the Yabloko party, was fined 25,000 rubles [$270] for organizing an unauthorized event, and journalist Taras Kharchenko was fined 10,000 rubles [$110] for filming Zinatullin's solitary picket. Initially, Kharchenko was charged with organizing an unauthorized rally, but in court, the charge was changed to "participation in the rally."

Army Recruitment and Military Service Advertising

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs has announced that several Indian citizens, who had signed contracts with the Russian Army, were demobilized following diplomatic appeals by Indian representatives for their early resignation.

Yelena Kolesnikova, a member of the legislative assembly of the Chelyabinsk region, has joined the war against Ukraine as a volunteer fighter. Her husband, Oleg Kolesnikov, a member of the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia], has been fighting in Ukraine since the fall of 2022 as a commanding officer of an aerial drone reconnaissance battalion. Kolesnikova has personally raised money for drones on multiple occasions.

Mobilized Soldiers, Volunteer Fighters and Contract Soldiers

The list of mobilized soldiers killed in the war has been updated to include Roman Mazunin from the Perm region [Russia's federal subject], Valery Plyaskin from the Zabaykalsky region [Russia's federal subject], Oleg Ryzhov and Sergey Sokolov from the Sverdlovsk region, as well as Vladimir Cherkashin and Konstantin Kolchenko from the Belgorod region.

Dovod, an independent Russian media outlet, published the account of the 344th Motorized Rifle Regiment, formed out of mobilized soldiers who were initially sent to Svatove following only two weeks of training. As of now, a year and a half later, the regiment has been transferred to the Kupiansk direction, where it is experiencing significant losses.

A mobilized man with progressive obesity and a service fitness category "D" was sent to a combat zone. At the time of mobilization, he weighed 140 kilograms and was 180 cm tall. He was informed that he was completely healthy and fit for service. During the service, the man’s weight increased to 165 kg due to stress. Despite the fact that his diagnosis was confirmed by a medical evaluation board, he was appointed a platoon commander and, on Jan. 8, was deployed to serve on the Zaporizhzhia axis.

Sentences, Legal Proceedings and Incidents

As reported by the Astra Telegram channel, a drunk Russian serviceman shot his fellow soldier with an assault rifle in the "LPR" on the night of Feb. 24. The victim received a penetrating wound to the abdominal cavity and a wound to the shoulder. Authorities swiftly apprehended the perpetrator following the incident.

In Udmurtia [Russia's constituent republic], the police have refused to hold accountable a participant in the war with Ukraine who threatened a woman with a gun while she was on duty at the checkpoint of a cottage village. Arriving police officers justified their decision by stating that the man had taken part in the "special military operation."

In Buryatia [Russia's constituent republic], soldier Belek Khomushku has been sentenced to six and a half years in a penal colony for murder. According to investigators, while intoxicated, he stabbed his drinking companion in the chest, leading to the victim's death.

A former Wagner Group mercenary from Bashkortostan [Russia's constituent republic], named Ilyas Fayzullin, has been sentenced to six years of imprisonment on three charges. According to the court, while intoxicated, Fayzullin broke into a fellow villager's house and beat him to death with a wooden bat. Fayzullin also injured another man who was in the house. The court considered as mitigating factors the fact that the defendant has four children and his receipt of the "For Courage" medal for participating in combat operations in Ukraine.

The court in Chita has sentenced military serviceman Alexey Povorotov to six and a half years in a maximum security penal colony for going AWOL. According to investigators, on Dec. 5, 2022, Povorotov left his unit and was detained only on Aug. 29, 2023.

Actor Kirill Kanakhin has been sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment. In March 2023, the Investigative Committee opened a case against him on charges of terrorism resulting in death and illegal possession of weapons. Six months later, FSB investigators initiated another case of treason against Kanakhin. He was accused of participating in attacks on villages in the Bryansk and Belgorod regions as part of the "Russian Volunteer Corps."

The court in Kemerovo has ordered bailiffs to recover 4 million rubles [$42,700] from Vladislav Kanyus, who was sentenced to 17 years in a maximum security penal colony for the murder of student Vera Pekhteleva. While in prison, Kanyus signed a contract with the Ministry of Defense and joined the Storm-Z unit. After serving half a year, he was pardoned by Putin.


In the Rostov region, Minister of Property and Land Relations Yevgeny Osychenko has announced the reservation of 3,200 land plots for war veterans.

Children and Educational System

The branch of the Moscow Aviation Institute in Khimki, Moscow region, held an open day, during which, in addition to traditional professions, they advertised drone pilot training programs for prospective students.

Some schools in Saint Petersburg, in commemoration of Feb. 23 [Defender of the Fatherland Day], held meetings with war veterans, Rosgvardia [the Russian National Guard] members and OMON [riot police] officers as part of "lessons of courage." Meanwhile, in Vladimir, a school celebrated Defender of the Fatherland Day, where students were handed "draft notices to lift their spirits."

A boy named Alyosha from the Belgorod region, who had been used by Russian propaganda as a symbol of the invasion of Ukraine, was evacuated to the Penza region without his parents due to shelling. His father is fighting against Ukraine, while his mother serves as a medical instructor in a military unit.

At the Pedagogical University in Tomsk, a previously repeatedly convicted veteran of the war in Ukraine held a discussion with students. Earlier, the man had received a five-year sentence for assaulting an acquaintance with a kitchen knife.


In Saint Petersburg, a two-day patriotic festival "Russians Change the World" was held in honor of Feb. 23. Notably, one of the pavilions featured a lifelike educational mannequin with a fractured skull, burned hand and a severed limb instead of legs, allowing visitors to practice providing first aid. Meanwhile, in Moscow, an exhibition of contemporary art titled "Time Z" took place, commemorating the anniversary of the beginning of the full-scale invasion. The organizers claim that the essence of the exposition is to show Russia as a "metaphysical realm of goodness, where the heavenly city of Kitezh eternally stands." The exhibition presents paintings depicting Russian soldiers, Daria Dugina [the killed daughter of Russian far-right philosopher Aleksandr Dugin] and the Crimean Bridge.


The Bell conducted an investigation, analyzing how the Russian economy managed to withstand two years of war. Despite the economy demonstrating resilience to Western sanctions, beneath the apparent stability supported by oil and military stimuli lies a decrease in labor productivity, growing currency instability, labor shortages and a trend towards technological simplification.