mobilization briefs
March 1

Mobilization in Russia for Feb. 27-29, 2024 CIT Volunteer Summary

Alexei Navalny’s Death

On Feb. 28, Yulia Navalnaya delivered a speech at the plenary session of the European Parliament. In her address, she called upon the members of parliament "to apply the methods of fighting organized crime, not political competition. Not diplomatic notes, but investigations into the financial machinations. Not statements of concern, but a search for mafia associates in your countries, for the discreet lawyers and financiers who are helping Putin and his friends to hide money." Furthermore, Navalnaya emphasized that tens of millions of Russians opposing the war and Putin serve as steadfast allies in the struggle against the Putin regime. She urged parliamentarians not to persecute them but to work together with them. Moreover, Yulia demanded that the Russian authorities refrain from obstructing the organization of her husband's funeral. The next day, the European Parliament adopted a resolution, personally holding Vladimir Putin accountable for the murder of Alexei Navalny, assigning both criminal and political responsibility to him and the Russian state. MEPs also underscored the distinction between Russian civil society and the Putin regime, asserting the necessity to release political prisoners and individuals detained during Navalny's memorial events. They advocated for concrete measures to ensure their freedom.

The funeral of Alexei Navalny is scheduled to take place on March 1 at the Borisovskoye Cemetery in Moscow, with the requiem service set for 2:00 p.m. at the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God "Assuage my Sorrows" in the Maryino district, as announced by Navalny's spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh. Ivan Zhdanov, the director of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, shared the difficulties faced by Navalny's associates in organizing the funeral. Specifically, authorities obstructed the arrangements on Feb. 29, the day of Putin's address to the Federal Assembly. Even on March 1, the team struggled to find a venue for the wake, indicating authorities' efforts to push for a "quiet, homely funeral" against the wishes of the politician's relatives. The day before the funeral, difficulties arose in finding a hearse to transport the body from the morgue to the church. Kira Yarmysh reported instances of unknown individuals making threats to hearse crews, demanding that Navalny's body not be taken anywhere. This information was confirmed by Navalny's associate Leonid Volkov.

Meanwhile, filming has been prohibited and video surveillance has been installed in the church where the requiem service will be performed. Communication jammers and barricades have been set up around the church and near the cemetery. Additional barricades have been erected near Borisovo metro station, where police patrols are conducting document checks for individuals intending to enter Borisovskoye Cemetery. Metal barriers have also been brought in. More barriers have appeared near Navalny’s residence in Maryino.

Navalny's associates plan to broadcast the funeral on his YouTube channel. Additionally, they are encouraging those unable to attend the event in Moscow to pay tribute to Navalny's memory by laying flowers at memorials in their respective cities on March 1 at 7:00 p.m.

Moscow authorities have declined to authorize a memorial event for Boris Nemtsov [Russian opposition politician] and Alexei Navalny on March 2, citing the "epidemiological situation" as the reason. Simultaneously, the city administration of Chita withdrew its approval for a rally in memory of Nemtsov and Navalny scheduled for March 2. The official document cites the organizers' failure to disclose in their application that Navalny and affiliated organizations were involved in "extremist" activities. Moreover, students at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration were threatened with "immediate expulsion" for participating in rallies on the day of Navalny's funeral and the preceding day.

Natalia Khim, a pro-war Russian blogger, has released a video claiming that individuals associated with the Wagner Group and the Ministry of Defense have decided to relocate the flowers left at the Solovetsky Stone in Moscow in memory of the murdered Alexei Navalny to Prigozhin's memorial on Varvarka Street. Khim also issued threats against anyone who might try to interfere with this process. According to the Astra Telegram channel, Khim has repeatedly expressed Nazi views in the past.

The authorities continue to target participants of anti-war protests and acts in memory of Alexei Navalny. A judge has ordered a 15-day administrative detention for sports trainer Nikolay Zimirev after he laid flowers at a Navalny memorial in Sochi. He has been accused of displaying extremist symbols. In Murmansk, the police detained for the second time and later released an activist, who held a solo picket in memory of Navalny. A judge in Yekaterinburg has ordered a 10-day administrative detention for two local residents for acts in memory of Navalny. Another judge imposed a fine on an activist for the third time. The young woman had laid flowers at the memorial for fallen veterans of the Afghan War.

Authorities and Legislation

Vladimir Putin announced that, starting March 1, 2024, participants of the war against Ukraine can apply to join the new Time of Heroes personnel program. They also get priority when enrolling in leading higher education institutions. Putin asserted that "Russia can be entrusted" to these people in the future. He wants war veterans to become the new elite, to take over leadership positions in education, business and public administration, to head regions and enterprises. Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, independent Russian investigative media outlet] published a compilation of last week’s news stories, covering crimes committed by those, whom Vladimir Putin is calling the "new elite." We also regularly cover the crimes being committed by people returning from the war in the Sentences, Legal Proceedings and Incidents section below.

Meduza [international Russian-language online media outlet] and Vazhnyye Istorii uncovered a decree secretly issued by Putin, which formally introduces the position of political commissar [common in the Soviet Union] across state agencies. As deputy heads responsible for socio-political affairs, political commissars are expected to "strengthen patriotism" and "ensure a deep understanding of the state policy" among employees.

Sergey Efremov, the commander of the Tigr Volunteer Unit, has been appointed vice-governor of the Primorsky region. Prior to his involvement in the war, Efremov served as first deputy mayor of Ussuriysk. Since the establishment of the Tigr unit, he has been leading it and was awarded with the "Hero of Primorye" medal in November 2023. Notably, Primorsky region Governor Oleg Kozhemyako has recently announced the formation of a volunteer militia unit composed of participants in the war in Ukraine.

Army Recruitment and Military Service Advertising

Law enforcement raids against migrants continue. During one such raid in Rostov-on-Don, 36 former migrants who had acquired Russian citizenship but failed to undergo military reserve registration were served with draft notices. In a similar raid in Ufa, 12 individuals who had not undergone military reserve registration after obtaining Russian passports were brought to the military commissariat [enlistment office].

Efforts by authorities to recruit foreign residents in Russia persist, as evidenced by a recent incident in Krasnoyarsk where there was an attempt to enlist a medical university student from Congo.

Furthermore, in Moscow School No. 1552, advertising for contract-based military service was observed, as reported by the Sota media outlet.

According to Zebra TV, a pro-Russian media outlet in the Vladimir region, an analysis of official statements has revealed that at least 2,062 contract soldiers from the Vladimir region voluntarily deployed to the war against Ukraine in less than a year, starting from April 2023.

Mobilized Soldiers, Volunteer Fighters and Contract Soldiers

The list of mobilized soldiers killed in the war has been updated to include Nikolay Dobarkin and Pavel Gerasimov from the Belgorod region, Stanislav Shusharin, Yevgeny Voinkov and Yevgeny Solovyov from the Sverdlovsk region, Ivan Nikitin from the Volgograd region, Grigory Nikiforov from the Zabaykalsky region [Russia's federal subject], Aleksey Pinyagin from the Perm region [Russia's federal subject], Sergey Podkorytov from the Krasnodar region, Pavel Alekseyev, Sergey Khoroshikh and Aleksey Tsaryov from the Irkutsk region, Denis Kuznetsov, Yevgeny Oschepkov and Anatoly Stepanov from Russia's constituent Republic of Buryatia, as well as Aleksey Besstrashnov from the Vladimir region.

The Sibir.Realii [part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty] online media outlet has reported that at least 18 members of regional legislatures and municipal assemblies have been killed in the war since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Journalists have also identified at least one federal judge among the killed. The timing of the deaths appears to coincide with the assaults on the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka.

Sota highlighted a post from the Yakutia Daily media outlet, which tells the story of the Kurashev family from Yakutia. Six Kurashev brothers ended up in the war: one was mobilized, and the rest volunteered. One of them lost his arm in the war, and four others have not been in contact for some time.

A contract soldier from the Moscow region was sent back to the combat zone after returning from captivity. 49-year-old Oleg R. volunteered for the war in August 2022, signing a three-month contract. A month later, he was taken prisoner. In February 2023, he was exchanged and returned to his military unit in Mosrentgen, Moscow region, for inquiries. He was prohibited from leaving the unit for extended periods, despite health problems: he had difficulty moving and weighed 42 kilograms. On Feb. 28, he informed his family that he was being sent back to the war. Lawyer Maksim Grebenyuk, creator of the Voyenny Ombudsmen [Military Ombudsman] project, points out that, according to the Geneva Conventions, former prisoners of war must not be sent back to the combat zone.

As reported by Astra, a 19-year-old conscript was wounded in the Bryansk region. The soldier sustained shrapnel wounds during a drone attack near the village of Zapesochye on the evening of Feb. 27. Meanwhile, Sergei Ivanov, Security Council member and former Minister of Defense of Russia, stated that "there are no conscripts in the special military operation zone and there cannot be." However, according to calculations of the 7x7—Gorizontalnaya Rossiya [Horizontal Russia] news outlet, at least 15 conscripts have been killed in border areas of Russia during the war.

The Idite Lesom! [Flee through the woods/Get lost you all] Telegram channel, dedicated to assisting Russian soldiers who refuse to fight in Ukraine, has declared Feb. 29 as "Deserter's Day." It honors the refusal to serve as an act of bravery and patriotism. On this day, media outlets, journalists and public figures shared content related to those declining participation in the war and their supporters. More information is available on the Idite Lesom! Telegram channel and in the Mediazona article.

Sentences, Legal Proceedings and Incidents

Representatives of the Extremist "partisan movement" reported that they had "eliminated" former Wagner Group mercenary Sergey Konkeev, who had previously confessed to the murder of five prisoners of war. There is no confirmation of his death; however, videos of a burning vehicle allegedly belonging to Konkeev are circulating in Krasnoyarsk social media groups.

According to Astra, on Feb. 22, unidentified individuals wearing camouflage uniforms of Russian origin stormed into the home of a local resident in the occupied village of Chaplynka in the Kherson region. They struck her husband several times on the head and then, brandishing weapons, took him away in an undisclosed direction. A criminal case has not yet been initiated.

In the Kirov region, on the night of Feb. 23, traffic police officers stopped a car with two war participants. During the car inspection, the police discovered a man's body in the trunk. The soldiers were detained, and during interrogation, they confessed that the deceased was their fellow soldier who had gone AWOL. According to these two soldiers, they were attempting to return the deserter to the unit under their commander’s orders. When the man resisted, he was assaulted and confined to a basement, where he died from hypothermia.

According to the VChK-OGPU Telegram channel, a court has sentenced Vladislav Starun, a Russian mobilized soldier, to nine and a half years in a maximum security penal colony for murder. On April 22, 2023, the intoxicated soldier broke into the house of a resident of the Kherson region, threatened and assaulted him, and then shot him with an assault rifle.

A Novosibirsk court has sentenced Sergey Shakhmatov, a former Wagner Group mercenary, whoraped two schoolgirls (a four-grader and a fifth-grader) in Novosibirsk in May 2023, to 17 years in a maximum security penal colony. Before going to the frontline as a mercenary, he spent 15 years in prison.

In Yakutia [Russia’s constituent republic of Sakha], Viktor Savvinov, a former participant in the war in Ukraine, has been convicted of murdering two people. One of the victims was a winner of the Best Teacher of Russia contest with 40 years of experience. Since 2010, Savvinov has been repeatedly convicted, and in 2020, he received an 11-year sentence for the murder of a fellow drinker, but he left the colony to go to war.

In Irkutsk, police have refused to initiate a case against a former Wagner Group mercenary who systematically abused his wife, both before and during his participation in the war. Law enforcement officers are reluctant to hold him criminally responsible because he is a combat veteran.

The court in Chita sentenced a war participant in Ukraine to a one-year suspended sentence and a fine of 400,000 rubles [$4,360] for attempting to steal a mobile phone from a schoolboy while intoxicated. He was also convicted for repeated drunk driving and another instance of phone theft. Among the mitigating circumstances, the court noted the defendant's participation in combat operations in Ukraine.

In 2023, the Novocherkassk Garrison Military Court issued 17 decisions to terminate criminal cases against Russian soldiers, and the Rostov Garrison Military Court issued another 12 similar decisions. Servicemen suspected of violating traffic rules, exceeding authority, theft and robbery avoided punishment.

A criminal case has been opened against a Russian soldier for participating in combat on the side of Ukraine. A 52-year-old man surrendered on June 16 near the village of Vodiane. According to investigators, after his capture, the man started fighting on the side of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. On Jan. 3, he wasexchanged for Ukrainian prisoners of war. On Feb. 27, intelligence services filed a case against him for taking part in hostilities contrary to the interests of the Russian Federation. He faces up to 20 years in prison. According to the Kommersant daily newspaper, the soldier's name is Radik Bogdanov.

A court in Saint Petersburg sentenced Vyacheslav Lutor, a 33-year-old bank employee, to 10 years in a maximum security penal colony under charges of attempted treason, confidential cooperation with a foreign state, and aiding terrorist activities. According to investigators, Lutor corresponded with the "Freedom of Russia Legion" and was planning to fight on the side of the AFU. Mediazona reports that Lutor's manager at the bank said she had approved his unpaid leave in the summer of 2023, and other colleagues recalled that he had mentioned an offer to "work" abroad.

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) claims to have detained "an agent of the Ukrainian intelligence services" in Crimea. According to law enforcement, the unnamed agent, acting on orders from "handlers from the Main Intelligence Directorate," gathered information about Russian soldiers. The collected data was reportedly intended for use in missile and artillery strikes against personnel and military vehicles of the National Guard Forces. The specific location of the agent's arrest remains undisclosed, but the FSB in Crimea has initiated a criminal case on charges of espionage.

The Rostov Regional Court sentenced Ukrainian citizen Sergey Krivitsky to 11.5 years of imprisonment for attempting to purchase components for the S-300 SAM system.

The Krasnodar Garrison Military Court sentenced Aleksey Myshkin, a contract soldier from Krasnodar, to six years of imprisonment for desertion. Myshkin signed a contract with the Ministry of Defense in June 2023 and left his unit on August 19. After a few weeks, he was apprehended by the commandant's office personnel. During the preliminary investigation, the contract soldier was assigned to another military unit but escaped three more times.

In Saint Petersburg, a suspect in the arson of a relay cabinet has been apprehended. According to law enforcement officers, on Feb. 10, a 21-year-old native of the Kemerovo region allegedly set fire to a relay cabinet between the Strelna and Sergievo railway stations. Furthermore, the man is accused of contacting representatives of the "Freedom of Russia Legion" and, under their direction, monitored the activities of enterprises in the military-industrial complex. On Feb. 28, he was arrested, and a criminal case on charges of terrorism was initiated against him. He was placed in a pre-trial detention center for two months.

At the Volgograd airport, the FSB detained a 19-year-old man attempting to fly to Turkey, under suspicion of state treason. According to law enforcement officers, the young man accessed a website created by the AFU "to acquire weapons, means of attack, technical means, and subsequently use them against the security of the Russian Federation." Additionally, he allegedly collected and transferred funds for the needs of the Ukrainian army.