A "partial" mobilization announced by President Putin on Sep. 21, 2022 marked one of the major milestones of the war, significantly affecting its trajectory. Since the day Russian mobilization—unprecedented since WWII—was ordered, CIT has been closely following the draft campaign, its dynamics and implications. Together with a team of volunteers, we assess the situation through monitoring coverage in more than 60 media outlets and on social media platforms. Based on this data, we release daily summaries covering developments and incidents we consider to be most important.
While the situation along the frontlines remained relatively uneventful in the leadup to Ukraine’s offensive, we turned to the data collected during the last months to take a deeper look into how the Russian draft campaign was rolled out, how new mobilized forces were integrated into the ranks of the Russian Army, and how they were eventually used at the front. Based on our findings, we are planning to put together a string of publications.
- What problems authorities and draftees struggled with in the first weeks of mobilization, when thousands of men were deployed to military units and training centers; and how these problems indicate that little or no preparation was undertaken before the launch of the "partial" mobilization;
- What issues and factors impacted distribution and assignment of mobilized personnel to training centers and which training centers were designated for mobilization purposes; all of this showing further evidence of inadequate preparation for mobilization;
- How the training was implemented, and how authorities compromised its effectiveness in an attempt to silence any dissent among the mobilized.
Our special thanks go to our volunteers for their continuous support in sourcing data for our daily mobilization summaries over the last six months, as well as for reviewing and collating information for this string of publications.
The events that followed the announcement of mobilization developed rapidly: already in the first days, numerous videos appeared showing intoxicated¹, ², ³, ⁴, ⁵ and
fighting¹, ², ³, ⁴ mobilized soldiers, marching convoys¹, ², buses¹, ², ³, ⁴, trainloads¹, ², ³ and planes¹, ², ³, ⁴, carrying draftees to assembly points, barracks, and training centers. Based on subsequent events, it appears that the authorities themselves were not prepared for such a speed (at least those who were supposed to coordinate the process).
At the first stage of the mobilization process, all those who received draft notices and reported to assembly points or military commissariats [enlistment offices] had to be distributed within the infrastructure facilities of the Ministry of Defense [hereinafter referred to as the MoD] in a short time. In principle, the MoD faces a similar task twice a year during regular conscription campaigns. It should be noted, however, that conscription is a planned event and is stretched over time. According to the Minister of Defense, 300 thousand men were drafted as part of mobilization. This number exceeds the average number of conscripts more than twice (about 130 thousand conscripts are called up during a conscription campaign; the authorities plan to call up 147 thousand young men during the ongoing spring conscription campaign). In addition to the number of draftees, the organization of the process was negatively affected by the tight deadlines (the Minister of Defense officially announced the completion of the draft as part of mobilization on Oct. 28, a little more than a month after it started, while the decree on the competition of mobilization has not yet been signed). For comparison, conscription campaigns usually last 3-3.5 months. These two factors alone would be enough to cause serious difficulties in the "absorption" of mobilized servicemen by the MoD. However, the evidence that appeared almost immediately after the start of mobilization suggests that the announcement of "partial" mobilization was a surprise at least for the subdivisions of the MoD responsible for the deployment of personnel, and possibly for the entire ministry. Such an assumption can be made in light of the fact that the MoD was not ready to enroll such a large number of people. The Armed Forces were not adequately prepared to accommodate reinforcements as shown in the following examples.
Draftees, after being sent from assembly points to military units, starting from the first days of mobilization were complaining that commanders often did not even know about their arrival. In particular, no one was waiting for draftees from Russia’s constituent Republic of Yakutia who arrived in Vladivostok late in the evening on Sept. 24. As a result, the men had to spend the night on the street in front of the closed gates of a military unit. Mobilized servicemen from Togliatti who arrived on Sept. 25 in the settlement of Roshchinsky near Samara (home to the 15th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade and the 30th Separate Motor Rifle Brigade) faced the same problem, while, unlike draftees from Yakutia, Togliatti residents reported to the gates of the unit during working hours. It should be noted that the command of the Roshchinsky garrison failed again to solve the problem with the placement of draftees a month later—another group of draftees from Togliatti who arrived on Oct. 20 could not get settled into barracks.
Draftees from the Perm region, who were brought to the 473rd district training center in the settlement of Yelansky, Sverdlovsk region, on Sept. 29, were immediately warned that they would have to spend two nights out in the open because there were no places to accommodate them. Judging by the testimonies of other called-up men gathered by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, by that time the center was overcrowded, some people were already placed even in an assembly hall. A hastily deployed tented camp did not solve the problem. As a result, after an uproar, as the relatives of the mobilized told the journalists of Radio Liberty, commanders managed to settle some of the draftees into the barracks. However, it was not possible to accommodate all the arrived men, some had to spend the night near campfires¹, ² on the unit’s territory.
A group of draftees [according to a video dated Oct. 3, about 500 men] was left outside the gates of the 242nd training center of the Airborne Forces in the village of Svetly, Omsk region. As a result, the men had to collect firewood in a nearby forest and build campfires to keep warm. On the same day, several groups of draftees who arrived from Russia’s constituent Republic of Khakassia and the Altai region were not allowed to enter the territory of the Omsk Armored Engineering Institute in the nearby settlement of Cheryomushki.
Draftees from Saint Petersburg and the Novgorod region were not expected at the training center of the Military Academy of Aerospace Defense in Tver. The command left them in front of the unit’s gates. The same happened to mobilized men from the Krasnodar region, who were deployed on Oct. 13 to the 227th Artillery Brigade in Maykop—it turned out that these men were not accompanied by the necessary documentation.
Problems with accommodation did not vanish even after 1.5 months from the beginning of mobilization. Arriving on Nov. 4 in the village of Perevalnoe near Simferopol (the 126th Coastal Defense Brigade and the Angarsky training ground are based there), a group of several hundred mobilized servicemen had to spend the night on a drill ground.
Similar problems were caused, among other things, by overcrowding of accommodation points by draftees who had already arrived earlier. This is evidenced by numerous photos and videos made by those men who were lucky enough to get inside the military units. There, they often had to sleep side by side in jam-packed assembly halls, hallways and staircases. For example, at the Novosibirsk Higher Military Command School, mobilized men were placed in hallways and the assembly hall; in the previously mentioned 473rd district training center in Yelansky draftees were placed in a gym. Draftees from Vladimir, who were sent to one of the largest training centers of the MoD in the village of Mulino, Nizhny Novgorod region, as well as draftees in the barracks of the 488th Motor Rifle Regiment located in Klintsy, Bryansk region, had to sleep on the floor.
But even those who were stationed in barracks designed to accommodate servicemen faced the realities of the Russian military. For example, there were no beds in one of the military units, while in some units there were no mattresses¹, ² with beds. The overall condition of barracks was poor. Videos showing the deplorable state of the premises and utility systems were recorded by draftees in the military camp in the 392nd district training center in Knyaze-Volkonskoe rural settlement, Khabarovsk region, the 423rd Motorized Rifle Regiment stationed in Naro-Fominsk, Moscow region, one of the units in Russia’s constituent Republic of Ingushetia (probably the 291st Guards Artillery Brigade, Troitskaya stanitsa), and the Novosibirsk Higher Military Command School.
As shown above, these problems have affected the entire country, from the Far East to the western regions. In our opinion, this indicates the systematic nature of the problem. Its reason lies in the general organization of the process, rather than individual incompetence in some regions (although incompetence cannot be written off either).
To solve the problem of accommodation, tent camps were urgently deployed in many military units and training grounds. In particular, they were deployed at the Novosibirsk Higher Military Command School, the Omsk Armored Engineering Institute¹, ², the 473rd district training center in Yelansky, the 74th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade in Yurga, Kemerovo region, the 90th Guards Tank Division in Chebarkul, Chelyabinsk region, the Pesochnoe training ground on the border of the Yaroslavl and Kostroma regions, the Kazan Higher Tank Command School, the Shilovsky and Koltsovo training grounds near Novosibirsk, the Prudboy training ground in the Volgograd region, the Radygino training ground in Kamchatka and the training ground of the 106th air defense training center in the village of Nizhnyaya Pavlovka, Orenburg region. There were instances of fire occurring in tent camps, for example in Nizhnyaya Pavlovka and at the Omsk Armor Engineering Institute. Such tent camps were not deployed in advance, nor were preparatory measures taken. That is why, and also due to the inability of the MoD to organize this process, representatives of regional civil administrations joined the construction of tent camps from the very beginning¹, ², ³, ⁴. In particular, they provided the Armed Forces with the necessary materials¹, ², ³, ⁴. In some military units, tents belonging to the Ministry of Emergency Situations were used. Due to this, tent camps took several days or weeks to construct.
However, tent camps were not enough to accommodate all the draftees, therefore, in some instances civilian infrastructure was used for these purposes. In Russia’s constituent Republic of Tatarstan, called-up men were placed in the Kazan-Expo International Exhibition Center. Draftees were held at the Solidarity Arena stadium in Samara; at the Yubileyny Sports Palace in Tver; in the Patriot Park in Kubinka and the sports and recreation complex building in Staraya Kupavna, the Moscow region. In a number of regions, mobilized servicemen resided in children's camps, for example, in the Beryozka children's camp in Kumysnaya Polyana in the Saratov region, the Grenada children's camp in Berdsk, Novosibirsk region [two murders occurred there], the Druzhba-Yamal recreation and rehabilitation center in Verkhny Bor and the Alye Parusa children's health-improving and educational center in the village of Onokhino, Tyumen region, as well as in dormitories.
Another concern aside from accommodation was the supply of weapons, gear and at first even food to draftees. The relatives of mobilized servicemen complained that their loved ones were not adequately fed, and therefore they had to pass meals through the fences of military units (Novosibirsk, Novosibirsk again, and Roshchinsky). Sometimes such practice was banned by the unit's command, for example in Sertolovo, Leningrad region. It is likely that the ban was caused by concerns that servicemen might receive alcoholic beverages with their meals. However, draftees were able to get their drinks without relatives' assistance. There were a significant number of incidents, including fatal ones, as a result of which alcohol sales were banned near military units by local authorities in some regions (Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Mulino, Pakino, and Totskoye).
The quantity and quality of uniforms and gear provided by both the MoD and civilian authorities prompted serious complaints from mobilized soldiers. Similar to the situation with the tent camps, regional authorities quickly intervened in the supply process, likely anticipating the MoD’s inability to handle its tasks. Thus, mobilized soldiers from the Murmansk region received ill-fitting uniforms, those from the Penza region got uniforms from the old Soviet reserves, soldiers from the Tver region received "bulletproof vests," designed for airsoft games (the author of the video was later made to apologize for the video), while soldiers from Bashkortostan got bulletproof vests without any consideration of size. It is worth noting that mobilized soldiers often laid blame¹, ² for the inadequate supply of uniforms and gear on civilian authorities, rather than the MoD. To be fair, some regional authorities indeed
supplied¹, ², ³ gear of extremely poor quality. It is therefore not surprising that many mobilized soldiers spent from 20,000 to 100,000 rubles or more to procure uniforms and gear for themselves, immediately after receiving draft notices, expecting the government to fail in the fulfillment of this task.
Issues also arose with the supply of weapons: soldiers mobilized from the Primorsky region received rusted AKM assault rifles, while those from Adygea [Russia’s constituent republic] got AK-74 assault rifles in less-than-optimal conditions. Meanwhile, signal officers mobilized into the 27th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade recorded a video address, where they showed the supplied communication equipment, most of which was inoperable. It is important to note, however, that the number of complaints specifically concerning small arms is minimal, since their stockpiles (estimated at around 30 million units as of 2018) would be enough to equip millions of people.
Provision of medicines and medical care was not without its share of problems. From the very beginning, mobilized soldiers and their relatives were told that it was their responsibility to assemble a personal medical kit. This led to a run on pharmacies, resulting in significant depletion of their supplies. Some regions even ran out of Esmarch's tourniquets. Housing in overcrowded enclosed spaces inside barracks or in poorly heated tent camps led to outbreaks of respiratory illnesses and pneumonia. Yet, no medical care was provided to the mobilized soldiers, likely due to a shortage of medical personnel and the expectation that once everyone had been infected, the wave of epidemics would naturally subside. In the end, that is exactly what happened and the wave passed without much impact on the mobilization process. Estimating how many got sick, or assessing the consequences for their health, seems virtually impossible.
When mobilized soldiers began receiving their monetary allowances at the beginning of November, it became clear that this process, too, would face significant challenges. Service members from different regions complained about the lack of payments or insufficient amounts¹, ², ³. This can be explained, first and foremost, by the substantial increase in workload on the MoD employees responsible for entering soldiers’ information into the Alushta centralized logistics system, which is used to process all payments. It covered approximately 700,000 people before mobilization, but soon after its start, the number of records should have grown by at least 40%. We saw no evidence to suggest, however, that the number of personnel working on this task had increased.
A characteristic feature of the MoD in its current form became apparent during the mobilization process: a propensity to show that everything is fine rather than ensuring that in reality. We call this practice Photo Report Forces [meaning the formalistic approach to reporting and accountability in the Russian military]. Since mobilization received significant attention from pro-government propaganda media, the military resorted to its favorite tactic in order to present a positive image and did its best to conceal the actual problems. This was especially obvious during visits by high-ranking officials, whether military or civilian. On such occasions, the goal was to create a visually appealing image, and since no one planned to address the issues, they simply hid them. For example, when Governor of Zabaykalsky region Aleksandr Osipov visited a training center in the village of Peschanka, mobilized soldiers were simply expelled outside, so they wouldn’t spoil the image or ask inconvenient questions. In other cases, they were locked in their barracks. Naturally, such incidents could not go unnoticed, and in social media comments accompanying videos covering these visits, relatives of the mobilized soldiers shared how the pleasing image was actually achieved. Needless to say, this practice (rooted deep into Russian history) did not contribute to solving the issues of supply and support for mobilized soldiers.
On a separate note, issues regarding the supply of food and gear, as well as the payment of allowances, have yet to be fully resolved. Stories of mobilized soldiers’ relatives, who are trying to obtain the money they are entitled to, continue to occasionally surface in the media. Addressing the supply issues largely falls on the shoulders of numerous volunteer groups across the country. They actively collect and send assistance, encompassing a wide range of items, from clothing and food to thermal goggles and vehicles. Evidence of these efforts are regularly included in the previously-mentioned mobilization summaries, which are released by CIT in collaboration with the team of volunteers.
In summary, the data above indicates that no preparation for mobilization was undertaken by the MoD. There were no assessments of the available accommodation capacity, nor was there likely a plan detailing how many mobilized men would arrive from various regions to each center and when. In many cases, their mere arrival came as a surprise to the military, let alone the actual number of arriving individuals. Existing barracks infrastructure was also not adequately prepared, and additional facilities such as tent camps were neither established nor even readied for deployment. As a result, this led to a system collapse in the first few days when there was simply nowhere to accommodate arriving mobilized men, forcing them to spend the night outdoors, under the open sky.
Due to the unpreparedness and low effectiveness of the MoD in addressing the issues above, civilian authorities had to take on a significant proportion of the supply and housing related tasks. Governors and other regional leaders began to regularly visit the centers, where men mobilized from their regions were stationed, in order to try and resolve emerging problems. Regional authorities, together with relatives and volunteers, also tackled the procurement of uniforms and gear for the newly mobilized soldiers. The experience of rapidly scaling up the delivery of health care during the recent COVID-19 pandemic likely helped regional authorities to eventually stabilize the housing and supply situation of the mobilized.
In the end, the initial collapse of personnel accommodation during the first weeks of mobilization was overcome with the combined efforts of the military and civilian authorities. This topic therefore receded in the information flow. Virtually all mobilized soldiers were housed with varying degrees of comfort, and their further relocation within the military system proceeded smoothly and with fewer complaints. At which point, another issue came to the fore: mobilized soldiers and their relatives began raising concerns regarding their deployment to the combat zone. This will be covered in one of our upcoming publications.
We have already mentioned a number of military units, training grounds and centers while discussing the issues encountered by the MoD to initially house mobilized men. We will now review them in more detail.
The Ministry of Defense infrastructure, including unit home bases, training centers, training grounds and others, is extensive and distributed across virtually all regions of the country. Ground Forces units, however, tend to be mostly concentrated in border regions. Besides home bases of professional military units, the MoD used training grounds, centers for training junior specialists, as well as military academies and institutes, to accommodate mobilized soldiers. The latter are usually located in large regional centers, which facilitates in part the logistics of dispatching the mobilized. Nevertheless, several regions did not have suitable sites and had to redirect mobilized men to neighboring regions. Sometimes, only part could be accommodated in their region of origin and others had to go to neighboring regions. In all cases, however, the distribution of mobilized personnel at this stage never crossed Military District boundaries. So, for example, an individual mobilized from a region associated with the Central Military District (CMD) could only end up in regions also within the CMD. Consequently, let us now consider the training centers by Military District.
The Eastern Military District (EMD) consists of Russia’s constituent republics of Buryatia and Sakha (Yakutia), the Zabaykalsky, Kamchatka, Primorsky, Khabarovsk, Amur, Magadan, Sakhalin regions, and the Jewish and Chukotka autonomous regions.
The Zabaykalsky region became a major training destination within the EMD. Residents of six far-eastern territories—the Amur, Zabaykalsky, and Kamchatka regions, Buryatia, Yakutia, and Chukotka—went through the 212th district training center of the Russian Ministry of Defense located in Peschanka settlement near Chita. The Primorsky region hosted training of draftees coming from three regions: the Magadan region, the Primorsky region, and Yakutia. Bases of military units comprising the 127th Motor Rifle Division, the 83rd Guards Air Assault Brigade, the 60th Separate Motor Rifle Brigade, as well as the Ilyinsky, Bamburovo, and Sergeyevsky training grounds were used. The Khabarovsk region, another large far-eastern entity, conducted training at the 392th district training center (in Volochaevsky gorodok, Khabarovsk), at its satellite center in Knyaze-Volkonskoe rural settlement, at the home base of the 57th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade, and at the Bikinsky training ground. Drafted residents of the Magadan, Primorsky, and Khabarovsk regions and Yakutia were sent there as well.
Even though Buryatia, home to the 5th Separate Tank Brigade, the 37th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade, the 11th Guards Air Assault Brigade as well as their training grounds (Divisionny, Burduny, and Sosnovy Bor), possesses a large capacity to train draftees, it only hosted Yakutia draftees in addition to its own. The draftee training capabilities of the remaining four EMD constituents (the Amur region, Jewish autonomous region, Kamchatka and Sakhalin) are significantly more limited. For example, mobilized men there were predominantly housed in tent camps set up at training grounds. It is, therefore, no surprise that only local draftees underwent training there with the exception of a group of mobilized Yakutia residents dispatched to the Jewish autonomous region.
As we analyzed the mobilization-related activities within the Central Military District (CMD), we observed three groups of regions within which draftees were moved around. There were but a few cases where mobilized soldiers were transferred between such groups of regions. At first glance, this does not seem that surprising given that the CMD is the largest military district, spanning the territory bounded in the west by the Volga River and in the east by lake Baikal. It would seem logical to split the CMD into several sub-districts in order to simplify logistics. Curiously, however, the boundaries of these groups correspond to those of the former Siberian, Ural, and Volga military districts that existed prior to the Military Administrational Reform of 2001 when the Ural and the Volga military districts were merged into the Volga-Ural Military District. This fact may indirectly point at the possibility that the Ministry of Defense used their old, pre-2001 reform plans to execute this mobilization campaign which, in turn, would indicate the lack of preliminary planning before the announcement of the 2022 mobilization and suggest that the mobilization plans had not been refreshed during the last 20 years. Let us consider these groups of regions in more detail.
The easternmost regions of the CMD—the republics of Altai, Tuva, and Khakasia, the Altai, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Kemerovo, Novosibirsk, Omsk, and Tomsk regions—correspond, with minor caveats, to the former Siberian Military District that existed until 2010. Buryatia and the Zabaykalsky region, formerly part of the Siberian Military District, were transferred to the EMD at the time of the reform (see above for detailed coverage on these regions). We note, however, that draftees from these two regions were not sent to other training centers within the EMD even though the training centers, especially the 212th district training center near Chita, did host draftees from other EMD regions.
Within this "Siberian" group of regions, the Omsk region served as one of the major training destinations. Here, at the 242nd training center of the Airborne Forces in the settlement of Svetly and at the Omsk Armored Engineering Institute located in Cheryomushki military settlement, draftees from the Altai, Krasnoyarsk, Kemerovo, Omsk, and Tomsk regions as well as from Khakasia underwent their training. We must also mention that the Omsk Armored Engineering Institute also hosted draftees from the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region (Khantia-Mansia), not part of the "Siberian" group. This is one of the few cases mentioned above where draftees were transported outside their group of regions of origin.
The Novosibirsk Higher Military Command School and its Koltsovo training ground as well as the Shilovsky training ground, both located near Novosibirsk, became the second major training location of the "Siberian" group. Draftees brought from the Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, Omsk, and Krasnoyarsk regions and from the republics of Altai and Tuva underwent training there. Apparently, the Novosibirsk Higher Military Command School and the tent camps at the training grounds ran out of space at some point and a group of Tuva draftees had to be housed at the Grenada children’s camp in the neighboring town of Berdsk. An account given by a group of draftees to the Lyudi Baikala [People of Baikal] independent news outlet also implies that the Novosibirsk center ran out of space. Among other things, the soldiers mentioned that due to a lack of space for them in Novosibirsk, they had been transferred to the 74th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade in Yurga. After a month in Yurga, they were transferred back as space in Novosibirsk freed up. Besides this group of draftees whose members came from the Irkutsk and Krasnoyarsk regions as well as Tuva, mobilized men from the Kemerovo and Novosibirsk regions trained at the 74th Brigade in Yurga as well.
In addition to training centers in Omsk, Novosibirsk, and Yurga, another one operated in Aleysk in the Altai region. The 35th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade located there hosted training for the region’s residents as well as for draftees from the neighboring Altai Republic. Finally, the last training center we were able to confirm in this group of regions was the city of Kyzyl in the Republic of Tuva. There, at the base of the 55th Mountain Motor Rifle Brigade, only residents of the republic were trained.
The second group of regions within the CMD corresponds to the former Ural Military District that was joined with the Volga Military District to form the Volga-Ural district during the reform of 2001. This group consists of the Kurgan, Sverdlovsk, Tyumen, and Chelyabinsk regions, Khantia-Mansia, and the Yamalo-Nenets autonomous region (Yamalia).
Only four training centers existed here, located in three of the regions. The settlement of Yelansky in the Sverdlovsk region is home to the 473rd district training center. Since the first days of mobilization, this large training facility has been a source of a variety of news reports, some of which we quoted above. Residents of the Kurgan, Sverdlovsk, Tomsk, Chelyabinsk, and Perm regions, as well as men from Bashkortostan and Khantia-Mansia trained there. We must point out that draftees from Tomsk and Perm regions and from Bashkortostan were "guests" from other groups of regions. The second training center was the military town No. 32 in Yekaterinburg and mobilized residents of the Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk regions underwent training there.
Another training center in the Ural mountains was the Tyumen Higher Military Engineering Command School and the Andreyevsky training ground located in Tyumen. Mobilized residents of the Sverdlovsk, Tyumen, Perm regions, Khantia-Mansia, and Yamalia were sent there. We point out that, as in the case with the Novosibirsk Higher Military Command School, civilian infrastructure was used there to house draftees to resolve capacity issues. The Druzhba-Yamal recreation and rehabilitation center and the Alye Parusa children's health-improving and educational center, both located in the outskirts of Tyumen, were used to house draftees.
Finally, the last of the training centers we were able to find within this group of regions was deployed on the base of the 90th Guards Tank Division and the 255th interspecific training ground in the town of Chebarkul in the Chelyabinsk region. This large training center trained draftees from the Kurgan, Omsk, Sverdlovsk, Tomsk, and Tyumen regions, as well as from Khantia-Mansia and the Altai Republic. The fact that the base of the 90th Guards Tank Division is the largest training facility for tank troops most likely explains the presence in Chebarkul of mobilized residents of Omsk and Tomsk regions and the Altai Republic all belonging to the "Siberian" group of regions. We postulate that mobilized residents of these "guest" regions were assigned to tank units and were then dispatched to Chebarkul for training.
The third group of regions in the CMD corresponds to the defunct Volga Military District that existed until 2001. This group consists of the Kirov, Orenburg, Penza, Samara, Saratov, Ulyanovsk, and Perm regions, as well as Bashkortostan, Mari El, Mordovia, Tatarstan, Udmurtia, and Chuvashia.
Here, a lot of training centers were used. Mobilized soldiers from eight regions at once (the Orenburg, Penza, Saratov, Tyumen, and Ulyanovsk regions, as well as Mari El, Mordovia, and Chuvashia) were sent for training to the 623rd interspecific regional training center for the communications troops in Ulyanovsk and to its branch in Soldatskaya Tashla village. Let us note that the Tyumen region belongs to the "Ural" group of regions.
Several centers were located in the Saratov region. Residents of the Kirov, Orenburg, and Saratov regions, Bashkortostan, and Udmurtia were trained at the Volsky Military Institute of Material Support. Draftees from the Orenburg, Penza, Saratov regions, and Bashkortostan were trained at the Shiroky Karamysh training ground. Residents of the same regions were also trained at the 631st missile and artillery troops regional training center in Saratov. Let us note that there wasn’t enough space here as well, so mobilized soldiers from Bashkortostan were quartered in a children's camp in the village of Dubki, and the residents of the Saratov region—in the Beryozka children's camp.
A large training center was located in the Orenburg region. There, in Totskoye village the 21st Guards Motor Rifle Brigade is stationed, and it's also home of the Totsky training ground, one of the largest in Russia. Residents of the Altai, Perm, Orenburg, and Chelyabinsk regions and Tatarstan were sent here. Note that the Altai region belongs to the "Siberian" group of regions, and the Chelyabinsk region—to the "Ural" one, that is, we are talking about "guests" again. Another training center for draftees was located in the village of Nizhnyaya Pavlovka in the Orenburg region. The training ground of the 106th air defense training center is located there. Only residents of the Orenburg and Samara regions were trained here.
In addition to the regions mentioned above, the training of mobilized soldiers also took place in the Penza region at the Penza Artillery Engineering Institute. Residents of the Penza and Ulyanovsk regions and Bashkortostan were sent here.
To train mobilized soldiers in the Samara region, the military town of the settlement of Roshchinsky was used, where the 15th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade and the 30th Separate Motor Rifle Brigade were stationed. Here, mostly soldiers mobilized in the Samara region were trained. We have also established the presence of Ulyanovsk region residents here. Same as in Saratov, it was not possible to accommodate all the soldiers in the military town, so the Solidarity Arena stadium in Samara was repurposed for that.
And finally, the Kazan Higher Tank Command School was the last training center for the mobilized in the military district that we found, where mobilized men from the Republics of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Mari El and Chuvashia were trained. Notably, due to a lack of space, residents of the latter two regions were accommodated in a tent camp on the territory of the Kazan Higher Tank Command School training ground, and part of the residents of Tatarstan were quartered in the Kazan-Expo International Exhibition Center converted for these purposes.
As can be seen from this detailed description, the principle of regional division based on the old boundaries of military districts was strictly observed for the most part. The only serious exceptions are the Tomsk and Perm regions. A sizable share of soldiers mobilized from those regions were trained in centers outside of their regional groups. At the same time, the presence of several groups from neighboring regions in Chebarkul and Totskoye can be explained by the existence of large training grounds there. Draftees from other regional groups were possibly sent there, because their training within the units formed locally was impossible.
When looking at the Western Military District (WMD), we also identified two groups of regions corresponding to the Leningrad and Moscow Military Districts that existed before 2010 (however, on December 21, 2022, an announcement was made that these military districts would be restored). Although more exceptions have been recorded here, the trend is still clearly visible. Notably, the "incursions" we've discovered were one-way only—those mobilized from the "Leningrad" group of regions were trained in neighboring regions of the "Moscow" group, but we haven't recorded any examples of the opposite.
The "Leningrad" group of regions that we have identified includes Russia’s constituent republics of Karelia and Komi, the Arkhangelsk, Vologda, Leningrad, Murmansk, Novgorod, and Pskov regions, as well as the city of Saint Petersburg and the Kaliningrad region (the latter was never part of the Leningrad Military District, but an independent military administrative unit before the 2010 reform).
In this group of regions, the Leningrad region with its extensive military infrastructure has become the largest training center. In particular, residents of the Arkhangelsk, Vologda, Murmansk and Novgorod regions, the Republic of Karelia, the Leningrad region and the city of Saint Petersburg were sent to the military town near Luga, where the 25th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade and the 9th Guards Artillery Brigade were deployed, and one of the largest artillery ranges, the Luzhsky training ground, was also located. In Kamenka village, where the 138th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade and the Kirillovsky training ground were found, the mobilized from the Arkhangelsk and Leningrad regions, the city of Saint Petersburg and the Komi Republic were trained. In the 56th training center for motorized rifle troops and at the Dalama training ground near Sertolovo, there were the conscripts from Karelia, the Leningrad region, and the city of Saint Petersburg. Beside Sertolovo, those mobilized from these regions were sent to the Military Academy of the Signal Corps in Saint Petersburg. Residents of the Arkhangelsk and Murmansk regions were trained at the branch of the Military Academy of Logistics in Privetninskoe settlement. Those mobilized from Karelia were trained at the 11th training center of anti-aircraft missile forces, Gatchina, and those drafted from the Leningrad region and the city of Saint Petersburg, in the village of Sapyornoye, where the 6th NBC Protection Regiment and the Sapyornoye training ground were located.
In addition to the Leningrad region, the training of draftees took place in the Murmansk region. There, mobilized locals and residents of the Arkhangelsk region and the Komi Republic underwent training with the 200th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade in Pechenga and the 61st Naval Infantry Brigade in Sputnik settlement nearby. In the Pskov region, the base of the 76th Guards Air Assault Division and its Zavelichye training ground were the only places of training. Draftees from the Leningrad, Novgorod, and Pskov regions, as well as from Saint Petersburg and Karelia were sent here.
The Kaliningrad region, which is an enclave of Russia, has a rich military infrastructure, in particular the 11th Army Corps and the 336th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade are based there. The 7th Motor Rifle Regiment and the 9th Motor Rifle Regiment, which are part of the 11th Army Corps, as well as the 336th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade and the Khmelevka training ground were used to train draftees here. It is not surprising that those mobilized from the Kaliningrad region were trained in their region only. It is more noteworthy that beside them, residents of the Arkhangelsk and Murmansk regions were flown to the region for training.
The second group of regions we identified, the "Moscow" group, comprises the following: the Belgorod, Bryansk, Vladimir, Voronezh, Ivanovo, Kaluga, Kostroma, Kursk, Lipetsk, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Oryol, Ryazan, Smolensk, Tambov, Tver, Tula, and Yaroslavl regions, as well as the city of Moscow. These regions have a large population and an extensive military infrastructure. It is not surprising that the majority of training centers are found here.
One of the main centers became the units of the 1st Tank Army located in the Moscow region: the 2nd Guards Motor Rifle Division (Kalininets settlement), the 4th Guards Tank Division (Naro-Fominsk), the 27th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (Mosrentgen settlement), and the Alabino training ground (Alabino village). In addition to residents of Moscow and the Moscow region, draftees from the Vladimir, Kaluga, Smolensk, and Tula regions were trained in the units of the 1st Tank Army. Moreover, the training of draftees of Moscow and the Moscow region took place at the branch of the Military Academy of Strategic Missile Forces (Serpukhov) and at the Avangard training center (Patriot Park, near Kubinka). An unusual training center was organized in the Bogorodsky urban district of the Moscow region. Mobilized men from the Kaluga and Moscow regions as well as the city of Moscow were accommodated in civilian infrastructure facilities there, such as the Kolontaevo health resort, the Obukhovo sports center, and the sports and recreation complex building in Staraya Kupavna (Bogorodsky urban district). The training ground of the Military Academy of the Strategic Missile Forces (Bogorodsky urban district, Yamkinskiye Lesa) was also used for accommodation of mobilized soldiers. It is likely that mobilized men accommodated in civilian infrastructure facilities also underwent training there.
The Nizhny Novgorod region has become an important center where mobilized soldiers from numerous regions were directed. Its settlement of Mulino hosts one of the largest Ministry of Defense military training centers, which includes the 333rd combat training center, the 681st regional training center, the 47th Guards Tank Division, and the Gorokhovetsky training ground. Mobilized men from the Vladimir, Vologda, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Oryol, Ryazan, Tula, and Yaroslavl regions were sent here. Additionally, the mobilization training for draftees from the Nizhny Novgorod region took place at the 210th interspecific regional training center for engineering troops in Kstovo.
Another significant center has emerged in the Vladimir region. In the town of Kovrov and the nearby settlement of Pakino, the 467th district training center for junior army specialists of the WMD is located. It includes the 419th and 523rd Guards Motorized Training Regimens, as well as the 44th and 522nd Guards Training Tank Regiments. Residents from the Ivanovo, Kursk, Lipetsk, Moscow, Oryol, Tambov, and Yaroslavl regions were sent here for training.
A large training center was also established in the Kostroma region. The infrastructure of the 98th Guards Airborne Division was utilized for this purpose, namely that of the 331st Guards Airborne Regiment and the 1065th Guards Artillery Regiment stationed in Kostroma. Additionally, the Military Academy of Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection, located in the city, was used for these purposes. However, it was not possible to accommodate all the mobilized men in Kostroma. Some draftees were sent to the dormitory of the Kostroma State Agricultural Academy in the village of Karavaevo. The training for these and other groups of mobilized soldiers stationed in Kostroma also took place at the nearby Pesochnoe training ground. Residents from the Ivanovo, Kostroma, Lipetsk, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, and Yaroslavl regions were sent to the Kostroma region. Furthermore, we observed the presence of residents of the regions categorized under the "Leningrad" group of regions at all the above-mentioned accommodation facilities, including residents of the Vologda and Leningrad regions, and the city of Saint Petersburg.
The Tver region became another region of the "Moscow" group where residents from the "Leningrad" group of regions were sent. As far as we know, the Military Academy of Aerospace Defense in Tver accommodated exclusively residents from the Leningrad, Novgorod, Pskov regions, and the city of Saint Petersburg (it should be noted that there were issues with their accommodation upon arrival). Residents of the Moscow, Novgorod, and Tver regions, as well as the city of Moscow were directed to the assembly point in the former building of the Suvorov Military School in Tver. Additionally, for the accommodation of mobilized men from the Tver region, the Putilovskiye Lagerya training ground located near the city of Tver and the Yubileyny Sports Palace were prepared. The residents of the city of Moscow and the Moscow region were housed at the Staritsky branch of the Tver Technological College supervised by the Mozhaisky Military Space Academy.
Training of mobilized soldiers was also carried out in the Smolensk region. Mobilized men from the Oryol and Smolensk regions were accommodated at the Military Academy of Field Anti-Aircraft Defense in Smolensk. Residents of these same regions, as well as draftees from the Bryansk, Moscow, and Tambov regions, were directed to the military town near Yelnya, where the 59th Tank Regiment was stationed. In the Ryazan region, the training was conducted at the Seltsy training center of Ryazan Guards Higher Airborne Command School. In addition to residents of Ryazan, draftees from the Voronezh, Kursk, Lipetsk, Tambov, and Tula regions were sent there.
Training of mobilized men also took place in border regions. In the Kursk region, the 27th NBC Protection Brigade stationed in Kursk and the 448th Rocket Brigade located in Marshala Zhukova settlement were utilized for this purpose. Residents of the Kursk region, as well as draftees from the Belgorod, Bryansk, Voronezh, and Kaluga regions underwent training in the Kursk region. Mobilized soldiers from the Belgorod, Voronezh, Kursk, and Lipetsk regions, who were directed to the Voronezh region, underwent training at the Military Educational and Scientific Center of the Air Force in Voronezh. Training also took place in Boguchar, where the 252nd Guards Motor Rifle Regiment is stationed. In the Belgorod region, local mobilized soldiers and residents of the Bryansk region underwent training in the village of Soloti, where the 237th Tank Regiment and the 752nd Guards Motor Rifle Regiment were stationed. In the Bryansk region, the training took place in Klintsy, where the 254th and 488th Motorized Rifle Regiments were located. Residents of the Bryansk, Nizhny Novgorod, and Oryol regions underwent training in these locations.
Some of the mobilized soldiers remained in their respective regions and underwent training there without receiving draftees from other regions. For instance, residents of the Tambov region underwent training at the 45th Heavy Artillery Brigade in Tambov, Tula region residents trained at the 51st Guards Airborne Regiment in Tula, and residents of the Yaroslavl region trained in a center based on the Yaroslavl Higher Military School of Anti-Aircraft Warfare in Yaroslavl.
It is necessary to highlight the Vologda region separately. This region somewhat deviates from our proposed division into the "Moscow" and "Leningrad" groups of regions. Mobilized soldiers from Vologda, which was assigned by us to the "Leningrad" group of regions, were mainly sent for training to the neighboring regions belonging to the "Moscow" group of regions, namely the Tver and Kostroma regions. Draftees from the Leningrad, Novgorod, Pskov regions, and the city of Saint Petersburg also trained there. However, unlike the residents of Vologda, these men underwent training in their respective regions to a large extent, while the presence of mobilized soldiers from the Vologda region was only recorded in Luga, Leningrad region. We struggle to explain such an anomaly in the otherwise fairly well-structured system.
The Southern Military District (SMD) includes Russia’s constituent Republics of Adygea, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Kalmykia, Karachay-Cherkessia, North Ossetia-Alania, Chechnya, as well as the Krasnodar, Stavropol, Astrakhan, Volgograd, Rostov regions, and the occupied Crimean peninsula.
Here, the Volgograd region has turned into a major training hub. Mobilized soldiers from the Astrakhan region, Kalmykia and the Stavropol region, as well as the local draftees were all sent to the Volgograd regional training centers. The training took place at the home bases of the 255th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment in Volgograd and the 33rd Motor Rifle Regiment in Kamyshin, as well as at the 187th interspecific regional training center in Volzhsky, and at the Prudboy training ground.
It is also worth mentioning the Krasnodar region. Its extensive military infrastructure was used to train mobilized soldiers from the Krasnodar region itself, as well as from the Stavropol and Volgograd regions. We have determined that at least the 415th training center with the 243rd combined arms training ground located in Molkino, and the 7th Guards Mountain Air Assault Division with the Raevsky training ground in Novorossiysk were utilized. It seems that the mobilized soldiers that underwent training in the Rostov region were primarily local residents. Apart from them, we have only managed to establish the presence of the mobilized soldiers from the Astrakhan region. The extensive infrastructure of the 150th Motorized Rifle Division in the settlement of Persianovsky as well as the Kadamovsky, Kuzminsky, and Millerovo training grounds were all used to train the new draftees. In the Stavropol region, mobilized soldiers were sent to the 205th Separate Motor Rifle Brigade in Budyonnovsk and the 247th Guards Air Assault Regiment in Stavropol. Apart from the locals, the draftees from Kalmykia were also trained in the Krasnodar region.
The MoD’s infrastructure in the North Caucasus was also actively utilized to train mobilized soldiers. It is worth noting the rather mixed regional composition of draftees at various training centers there. For example, the 291st Guards Artillery Brigade in the stanitsa of Troitskaya (Ingushetia) received the newly mobilized men from the following six regions: the Krasnodar region, Adygea, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Kalmykia. North Ossetia’s training centers welcomed mobilized soldiers from Dagestan, Karachay-Cherkessia, Kalmykia, and the Astrakhan region. However, in North Ossetia, unlike in Ingushetia, multiple locations were used for training: the 19th Motor Rifle Division in the settlement of Sputnik, a military camp in Mozdok and the Tarskoye training ground. The mobilized soldiers from the Astrakhan region, Ingushetia, Dagestan and the Stavropol region were all sent to Chechnya for training (we will mention those mobilized from Chechnya itself separately). The training took place at the 291st Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment in the village of Borzoy, at the base of the 42nd Guards Motor Rifle Division in Khankala, and at the 70th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment in Shali. In occupied Crimea, the 810th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade in Sevastopol and the 126th Coastal Defense Brigade with its Angarsky training ground in Perevalnoe village near Simferopol were used to train the local mobilized men.
Notably, we were not able to find any information about the centers where residents of Chechnya would have been trained. There are also no obituaries mentioning those mobilized from this republic. However, this is fully consistent with the statement of the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, that "mobilization would not be carried out" in the republic. We’d like to point out that according to Novaya Gazeta.Europe [European edition of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta], the Chechen authorities mobilized 564 ethnic Chechens living in different Russian regions. All of them were sent to military units located in Chechnya, most often to the 70th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment.
In conclusion, we would like to list the regions where we were unable to find any training centers for mobilized soldiers. We assume that all the mobilized soldiers from the regions below were trained exclusively outside their home regions. In the Eastern Military District, these are the Magadan region, Yakutia, and Chukotka. In the "Siberian" group of the Central Military District these are the Irkutsk, Tomsk, and Krasnoyarsk regions, the Altai Republic and Khakassia, in the "Ural" group—the Kurgan region, as well as Khantia-Mansia and Yamalia, in the "Volga" group—the Kirov and Perm regions, Bashkortostan, Mari El, Mordovia, Udmurtia, and Chuvashia. In the "Leningrad" group of the Western Military District these are the Arkhangelsk, Vologda, Novgorod regions, Karelia and Komi, and in the "Moscow" group—the Ivanovo, Kaluga, Lipetsk, and Oryol regions. In the Southern Military District these are the Astrakhan region, Kalmykia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachay-Cherkessia. On the map below all of these regions are marked in red. As you can see, basically all of them are located in parts of the country far from the borders, therefore, the military infrastructure there is underdeveloped.
The training of Russian mobilized soldiers in Belarus is worth noting separately. The first time when the Russian MoD informed of the Armed Forces’ servicemen being sent for training to the neighboring country was Nov. 8, 2022. Although the Ministry did not mention it explicitly that those sent for training were mobilized ones, it was several days before the MoD’s official announcement when Belarusian and Ukrainian military analysts reported that Russian mobilized soldiers had been arriving in Belarus for training. After some time, it was confirmed by the soldiers themselves, as well as their families and media, that the training in Belarus was provided for mobilized troops. Note that the group sent for training was largely made up of units of the 2nd Guards Motor Rifle Division of the 1st Tank Army, whose ranks, depleted over the first months of war, had been joined by mobilized soldiers. Russian mobilized soldiers were and, probably, are being trained in the following training grounds of the Belarusian Armed Forces: Osipovichsky, Mogilev region; Obuz-Lesnovsky, Brest region; Losvido and Lepelsky, Vitebsk region. In mid-January, reports appeared of Russian troop trains going from stations near the Belarusian training grounds to the Voronezh region of Russia¹, ². At the same time, there were reports of mobilized soldiers being sent to Belarus from training centers based at the Omsk Armored Engineering Institute¹, ² and the Novosibirsk Higher Military Command School¹, ², and later from the Saratov region. It is unlikely that these mobilized soldiers belong to units of the 1st Tank Army, so one might assume that the units are rotated as they complete their training in Belarus.
More details of the distribution of mobilized soldiers by region and by training center are given on the interactive map and in the two tables: the first sheet shows where the mobilized from a particular region were being sent to; and the second sheet, conversely, shows the regions from which the mobilized were arriving at a particular training center. It must be taken into account that the information provided is most likely incomplete. Nevertheless, the overall scope of the data collected allows us to assert that we have identified the main facilities where mobilized servicemen were being trained, and the directions of their distribution between the regions.
When announcing mobilization, President Putin stated that the minimum training period for mobilized soldiers before being sent to the combat zone would be 10 days (which is clearly insufficient even for minimal training). However, contrary to that statement, some groups of mobilized soldiers already began to be transferred to border regions at the end of September, just a week after the start of mobilization, and then deployed to the territory of Ukraine. For example, from Sept. 28 to 30, Ural Airlines planes¹, ² were used to transport mobilized soldiers from Yekaterinburg to Rostov-on-Don. By early October, the first evidence¹, ², ³ of the participation of mobilized soldiers in combat actions emerged, followed soon after by reports of casualties and prisoners among them. Already by the end of October, the mobilized made up a significant part of the armed forces, being present in all directions (evidenced, for example, by the numerous video appeals of mobilized soldiers and their relatives, which began to appear from that very moment¹, ², ³). So, on Oct. 24, there were two cases of mass casualties among mobilized soldiers at once: in the area of Nova Kakhovka, Kherson region, mobilized soldiers from the Volgograd region¹, ², and in Chervonopopivka, Luhansk region, mobilized men from certain Ural regions came under fire. Since then, reports of the death of mobilized soldiers have been appearing on a daily basis. Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet] and BBC News Russian, engaged in documenting Russian losses in the war with Ukraine, have recorded over 100 new obituaries a week at certain periods. This indicates a significant proportion of the mobilized soldiers present on the frontline. The use of mobilized soldiers in combat operations will be further examined in one of the following materials in the series.
A significant portion of mobilized soldiers, while their less fortunate comrades-in-arms had already been killed in the combat zone, were undergoing training in training centers. It should be noted that some mobilized soldiers completed their entire training course in a single designated center, where they were assigned immediately after mobilization. Other groups, after completing initial training in one center, were then transferred to other centers or training grounds for further instruction. Presumably, this was primarily determined by the type and branch of a military unit to which the draftees were assigned: tank crews and artillery personnel, for example, require specialized training grounds even for basic training.
Speaking about training, it is also necessary to keep in mind that its level varied in different centers. Numerous testimonies from mobilized soldiers and their relatives indicate that the training was often insufficient: most of it was drill training, while practical shooting and exercises were held irregularly and in an extremely limited volume. As in the case of complaints about accommodation conditions, the absence or insufficient level of training was reported by mobilized soldiers who were in various centers throughout Russia, in particular, soldiers who were trained in units of the 1st Tank Army¹, ², ³ in the Moscow region, the 3rd Motorized Rifle Division in the Belgorod region, the 467th district training center¹, ², ³ in the Vladimir region, the Mulino training center¹, ² in the Nizhny Novgorod region, the Luzhsky training ground in the Leningrad region, the 55th Mountain Motor Rifle Brigade¹, ² (training was supposed to take place in the Sverdlovsk region), military town No. 32 in Yekaterinburg, Tyumen Higher Military Engineering Command School in Tyumen, Novosibirsk Higher Military Command School in Novosibirsk, Omsk Armored Engineering Institute, the 90th Guards Tank Division and the 255th interspecific training ground¹, ² in Chebarkul in the Chelyabinsk region, the Ilyinsky training ground in the Primorsky region. Complaints about the training level were also expressed in numerous appeals by the soldiers who had already been sent to the front (this "genre" will be discussed in one of our upcoming publications). All of this indicates a systematic issue with the training of mobilized soldiers.
An important factor that influenced the training process was the narrative promoted by the authorities since the beginning of "partial" mobilization, that mobilized troops would be used exclusively "to protect the liberated territories." Judging by the numerous appeals that subsequently appeared from the mobilized soldiers, who were assigned to assault units, they themselves willingly believed in this promise of the authorities and, probably, expected an "easy walk" in the rear, involving duties at checkpoints and the protection of important infrastructure facilities. This, in our opinion, was an important factor that affected the quality of training and the enthusiasm with which mobilized men and officers approached training. At the same time, when this narrative appeared, the authorities knew that the mobilized soldiers would also be used in the "hottest" sectors of the front. The low level of discipline, manifested, among other things, in widespread alcohol abuse, the insufficient number of adequately trained instructors, many of whom had already been sent to the front and were killed, and the formal attitude of responsible officers towards the training process also did not contribute to achieving high results.
However, it is a mistake to assume that the lack of proper training was universal. With the involvement and interest of officers, leadership, and mobilized soldiers themselves, the training process could be organized at a high level. There are testimonies from draftees, describing the high intensity of the training process. Undoubtedly, some of them are the result of propaganda, but it would be wrong to completely ignore all such evidence. It is difficult to indicate specific units that are distinguished by a high level of training, but based on our observations of the training and use of mobilized troops, we assume that, for example, the mobilized soldiers who ended up in the training centers of the Airborne Forces received better training than the majority of the draftees.
It is important to note that the duration of stay of the mobilized in the considered training centers varied significantly. As mentioned earlier, the deployment of draftees to the combat zone began several days after mobilization was announced. Further, this process continued: in regional media, regular reports appeared about the dispatch of another group of servicemen from various training centers. Thus, some mobilized men spent only a few days in training centers, while others spent several months. However, the length of stay in a training center was not always directly related to the level of training: some mobilized soldiers said that they were idle in training centers for several months, since simulators, shooting ranges, and other infrastructure necessary for training were occupied by mobilized soldiers, whose deployment was scheduled for earlier dates. Others, on the contrary, stated that intensive training was carried out throughout the entire training period.
During the training process, as mentioned before, mobilized soldiers were gradually moved closer to the combat zone—to training grounds in the Southern Military District, which now includes the territories of the "LPR" and "DPR" as designated by the Ministry of Defense. This process took place over three months: October, November, and December. At the end of December, we observed a significant amount of reports about mobilized soldiers being deployed from training centers to the combat zone. Frequently, such reports often mentioned that the last group of draftees had been dispatched or that no one remained in a training center after the departure of a group. Also, by this time, reports about trips to training centers from volunteers collecting and sending aid to the mobilized had practically disappeared—they have been replaced by reports about trips to border regions or to occupied territories. Analyzing this information, it can be reasonably assumed that by the beginning of January 2023, the vast majority of those mobilized had completed training in the training centers and were sent to the combat zone either within Ukrainian territory or to the border regions of Russia.
To conclude, it is safe to assume that the announcement of mobilization came as a surprise not only for the Russian population, but also for the MoD. We provided ample evidence of that in our overview of issues related to allocation of the newly drafted recruits within the MoD’s infrastructure, let alone multiple cases when soldiers had to be quartered in civilian buildings. Moreover, lodging facilities were woefully unequipped to accommodate draftees, with many barracks failing to provide beds and mattresses and utilities being in poor condition. This assumption is further corroborated by the fact that tent camps had to be built on the territory of multiple units and training grounds. It was not until days or even weeks after the launch of mobilization that the tents started popping up, revealing that the MoD struggled to keep pace with the rapid turn of events. At the same time, in many cases, regional authorities had to contribute heavily to the construction of tents, as the MoD proved to be unable to cope with this task on its own.
As observed in our analysis of training capacities and their attribution to specific regions, the manner in which regions were merged into larger groups corresponding to the old military administrative division of the country may also indicate that the MoD was caught unprepared for mobilization. Furthermore, it can be suggested that in its pursuit of the "partial" mobilization in the fall of 2022, the MoD relied on the mobilization plans developed long before the 2010 reform of military districts (the groups of regions we identified are based on the boundaries of military districts established back in 1998).
Overall, despite a large number of problems encountered at the initial stage, and aside from sloppy logistics and poor combat readiness of fresh draftees, the authorities managed to accomplish the main goal of mobilization, having enrolled the targeted number of men for service in Russia’s Armed Forces. Public discontent failed to trigger any major civil unrest across Russia, while occasional local protests (e.g. those in Russia’s constituent republics of Tuva and Dagestan) were quickly suppressed before they could spread. As to mobilized troops, their dissent almost never escalated beyond videos exposing the chaos at the training centers and tent camps, or public appeals seeking help from the authorities. Few cases of mass protests (e.g. those involving draftees from Chuvashia who staged a riot¹, ² in a military unit in Ulyanovsk, draftees from the Kazan Higher Tank Command School¹, ², and draftees from Tomsk stationed at the tent camp in Chebarkul) were promptly quashed by the authorities and did not evolve into significant outbreaks. Isolated outbursts of confrontation between soldiers and commanders resulted in criminal convictions for the former (Aleksandr Leshkov of the 1430th Regiment who pushed an officer at the Patriot Park in the Moscow region was sentenced to seven years in a maximum security penal colony; Stanislav Rybin who threatened an officer with a knife received a six-year sentence).
Typically, draftees were assigned to a training center within a military district they were mobilized from, to be given three months of training. Training quality and scope varied significantly, depending rather on the training facility than on the duration of the course. However, considering the actual amount of time spent in training, lack of competent instructors, and an upsurge of complaints from mobilized soldiers themselves (regardless of the region they were trained in), the level of training can in general be estimated as rather low. Widespread assumptions that mobilized personnel would only be assigned to "protect the liberated territories" also affected the training outcome. While some of the draftees were still in training, others started to deploy to the frontlines as early as in late September. This process was completed by early January, by which point most of the mobilized troops had been moved to the combat zone or areas nearby.
The next report in this string will focus on the second key stage of mobilization and will look into the strategy and mechanics of how mobilized soldiers were distributed across units of the Russian Armed Forces. Last but not least, once again, we want to thank our volunteers who made it possible for us to release this publication🦎.