A motion was introduced in the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] to amend the legislation that criminalizes the act of “discrediting” those involved in the war in Ukraine. In addition to regular members of the Armed Forces, it would now include Wagner Group mercenaries. The motion would amend the Code on Administrative Offenses Article 20.3.3, as well as the Criminal Code Articles 207.3 and 208.3. The maximum prison sentence is increased from 3 to 5 years under Article 207.3 Part 1 and Article 280.3 Part 1 and from 5 to 7 years under Article 280.3 Part 2 (repeated offense leading to dangerous consequences). Vyacheslav Volodin, Speaker of the State Duma, indicated that the second reading would take place on Mar. 2. The bill criminalizing the act of “discrediting those involved in the war in Ukraine” is, however, absent from the agenda of that meeting of the State Duma. Its members, therefore, amended 2 other bills, which until now were not related to the dissemination of “fakes” or “discreditation”, but had passed through their first readings. Mediazona [an independent Russian media outlet] explains in detail the new legislative initiative.
Roman Artyukhin, Head of the Federal Treasury, stated that his agency was auditing the Ministry of Defense spending on the “special military operation.” The review focuses on 4 key spending areas: personal body armor, communication equipment, fuel and lubricants, and, separately, maintenance and production of weapons and military equipment.
From the end of September 2022 till Jan. 31, 2023, banks have granted those fighting in the war in Ukraine and members of their families 67.5 billion rubles worth of credit holidays. This includes 3.9 billion rubles in January on 6800 loans, according to the Central Bank of the Russian Federation.
The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Sverdlovsk region, Tatiana Merzlyakova stated that the region is not ready for the second mobilization wave; therefore, the authorities need to do everything possible to avoid the draft. A large number of draftees will not be able to find adequate conditions in local military camps, according to the Commissioner.
The Ministry of Defense reports on the presentation of awards and decorations to military personnel of the Southern Military District, including draftees called up during mobilization. The Ministry also demonstrated combat training for armored vehicle crews of the Central Military District.
Members of the Samara Regional Duma [law-making body], at a meeting on Feb. 28, passed a law exempting from transport tax for 2022 and 2023 residents of the region called up for the war in Ukraine as well as local contract servicemen and volunteers participating in the "special military operation." Earlier, a similar law was adopted in the Russia's constituent Republic of Buryatia.
State Duma [lower house of Russia's federal assembly] member Maksim Ivanov, against the background of a large number of letters from relatives of draftees, appealed to the Minister of Defense with a request to clarify a number of issues related to the leave of servicemen. Families report that military units' commanders behave differently: some let servicemen take leave, while others don't.
The Military Ombudsman project is studying the issue of whether citizens called up for military service as part of mobilization are entitled to vacation from the point of view of current legislation. And Vazhnyye Istorii [iStories, an independent Russian investigative media outlet] published the opinions of lawyers and military analysts about whether the state will be able to fulfill the promise made by the president.
The number of draftees killed in Ukraine continues to rise. Artyom Ivchenko from the Sverdlovsk region, Rinat Akhmetov from Volgograd, Georgiy Baranov from Murmansk, and Sergey Filisov from Yaroslavl were killed at the front. Yuriy Zhilyakov from the Sverdlovsk region appeared at the Yekaterinburg military commissariat [enlistment office] on Sept. 26 to register. There he was offered to join draftees called up for the war. Yuriy agreed, and on Feb. 11, he was killed near the village of Chervonopopivka, Luhansk region.
Irkutsk mobilized soldiers from the 1439th Regiment were sent again to storm the Avdiivka fortified area. Three days ago, the Governor of the Irkutsk region, Igor Kobzev, promised that "the guys would be transferred to a new duty station." The mobilized themselves told about the assault to the Lyudi Baikala [People of Baikal] independent media outlet, “The 1st and 2nd battalions were sent to the assault. We were waiting to be transferred [to the territorial defense], but we are not being transferred anywhere.” The information was confirmed by relatives of the military and the Sibir.Realii [part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty] online media outlet.
Lyudi Baikala talked with the wives of the mobilized soldiers from the Irkutsk region about losses at the front and their appeals to the president. Meanwhile, the Tyumen mobilized from the 1641st Battalion, who recorded a video message, told 72.RU [Tyumen city online media outlet] about what was happening to them in detail.
Yulia Lebedeva from St.Petersburg has three children from her first marriage, and she will give birth to a child from her second husband, Aleksey, in two months. Immediately after the start of mobilization, Aleksey was drafted. Yulia is trying to get her husband back. According to the law on mobilization, he was granted draft deferment, but it turned out that the military enlistment office and the military unit could ignore this law.
In the city of Rostov, a contract soldier was arrested for shooting four fellow service members dead and attempting to kill a fifth. Contract soldier Vladimir Zelenin is being accused of opening fire at other troops from an assault rifle on the territory of a military unit. Other circumstances of the case are classified.
Yegor, a 16-year-old student of High School No. 166 of Saint Petersburg, was detained after an attempt to set fire to a draft office in the Leningrad region. The young man threw a Molotov cocktail at the door of the draft office. The bottle smashed on impact but did not ignite. The student was detained by the police with a can of diesel fuel in his hands at a bus stop only a hundred meters away from the draft office.
In Yekaterinburg, two students of a railway college were arrested. They are being accused of planning a sabotage offense and of aiding and abetting an act of terrorism. The Verkh-Isetsky district court placed Erik Mangasarov and Semyon Konkin under arrest for 1.5 months. Officially, the details of the case are not being disclosed, but the Russian media allege that the young people attempted to build an explosive device and distributed “pro-Ukrainian leaflets."
Aleksey Moskalyov from the Tula region, whose 12-year-old daughter Masha drew an anti-war picture in her art class at school, was detained and is facing criminal charges for a repeated offense of “discrediting the Russian Army.” From the Investigative Committee where he is currently being held, Aleksey will be transferred to a detention center in the town of Yefremov. Meanwhile, his daughter Masha on Mar. 1, was temporarily placed in an orphanage.
Masha and Aleksey Moskalyov are hardly the only Russian family who ended up in trouble. The regime is routinely persecuting minors and their families for opposing the war as part of a wider wartime crackdown. According to OVD-Info [Independent human rights project], at least 544 minors have been detained for anti-war protests since the beginning of the invasion.
A doctorate student at the South Russian Humanitarian Institute, Rostov region, Aleksandr Shepelev, was drafted on Sept.25, 2022, despite the existing student deferral. The young man decided to file a lawsuit. As stated in the court decision, the plaintiff withdrew the claim since the defendant satisfied his demands and relieved Shepelev from military duty.
In August 2022, a court in Saratov began hearing the case of two police officers accused of beating a detainee. In November, despite the indictment, one of them was drafted to the war in Ukraine. The court tried to arrest him in absentia twice, concluding that he was hiding from the investigation. In February 2023, the court finally delivered a verdict: one of the offenders was sentenced to 3.5 years in a strict regime penal colony, and the trial against the police officer who was drafted to the war with Ukraine was suspended.
A resident of the Moscow region reported on the police who broke down the door in her apartment during the detention of a draftee who ran away from the war in Ukraine.
A mother of three children from the city of Novosibirsk decided to go to the "special military operation” zone following her husband, who went there after mobilization was announced. She says that she will be serving in the tank troops and plans to return in six months to train as a paramedic. The couple left their three children to their grandmother.
The Sibir.Realii media outlet published a report from a Baikal village, from which all capable men were taken to the war with Ukraine. Some of them have already been killed, some have returned, some have decided not to return, and others have gone to war for the second time. Russian officer Konstantin Efremov who fled to Mexico, gave a big interview to Novaya Gazeta Europe [internet media outlet].
Tatiana Mukovinina, a resident of the Lipetsk region who is pregnant with her 2nd child, shared that she has been scheduled for a planned surgery in the maternity ward, but there’s no one available to watch her son because she is an orphan, her husband’s command is refusing to grant him a leave, and her in-laws are disabled. Officials considered her concerns and suggested temporarily placing the child in an orphanage.
The Social Insurance Fund of the Russian Federation in the Volgograd region reported that volunteer retirees knitted 50 pairs of socks for soldiers. Children from the Debut chess club and boxers from the local boxing school were tasked with weaving nets, students of a medical college made trench candles for the front line, and a beekeeper from the Altai Republic [constituent republic of Russia] sent 200 kg of honey to servicemen.
A Wagner Group mercenary gave a "lecture" to 10th-grade students at Moscow School No 183. A student who managed to record the speech shared it with the Telegram channel of Lyubov Sobol. During the "lecture," the mercenary promoted "contract service" and offered to fill out an application. According to the student, the mercenary came to the school with a gun and offered to show it to the children.
During the year of full-scale war, the number of job vacancies for military personnel in Russia doubled. This is according to data obtained by Vazhnyye Istorii from HeadHunter [Russian online job search platform].