The international Russian-language online media outlet Meduza and journalist Farida Rustamova reviewed the potential impacts of a bill extending the list of offenses that may be punished by confiscating property. If passed, article 104.1 of the Criminal Code would include the spreading of "fake news" about the army and publicly inciting actions against the security of the state when those crimes are committed for personal gain. The government has already endorsed the bill, even though its text has yet to be published. Presumably, lawmakers do not intend for all of a convict’s assets to be seized. Rather, courts could confiscate the money and valuables obtained as a result of the crime, as well as items used to break the law. Only time will tell how the courts decide to apply these norms. Asset seizure may result from failures to execute military orders, desertion, sabotage, illegal crossing of the federal border, divulgence of state secrets, treason and espionage, as all these actions could be deemed to undermine the security of the state. The Mozhem Ob'yasnit [We Can Explain] Telegram channel reports that authorities have been seizing assets in politically motivated cases more and more often. They often confiscated defendants’ laptops and tablets. The number of asset seizures has increased in the last two years: there were more cases like this in the first half of 2023 than during the entire year in 2021.
TASS [Russian state-owned news agency] reports that the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] voted down a bill, which would have allowed the courts to strip convicted criminals of citizenship acquired by birth. The bill authors sought to amend the Law on Citizenship. Its most recent version, which came into force on Oct. 26, permits revoking the citizenship of naturalized persons only as punishment for a range of serious crimes.
The trial and conviction of a well-known public figure and eco-activist Fail Alsynov have sparked outbreaks of social unrest in Bashkortostan [Russia's constituent republic]. Alsynov, who had come into the spotlight through his role in the protests against the illegal mining of the Kushtau mountain, was charged with "inciting ethnic hatred," to which he pleaded innocent, and on Jan. 17, was sentenced to four years in a penal colony. The Vyorstka media outlet points out that this is the most severe conviction used for this charge over the past 4,5 years. Notably, even the prosecution had asked for a less stringent sentence of only four years in a penal settlement. Criminal proceedings against Alsynov were launched personally by the region’s Governor Radiy Khabirov. The charge against the activist stems from a speech he gave at an authorized rally in the spring of 2023.
Based on estimates from different sources, from 3,000 to 10,000 people gathered outside the courthouse in the town of Baymak on Jan. 17 for Alsynov’s sentencing, chanting calls for freedom and support for the activist. Soon, tension spiraled into clashes between law enforcement and Alsynov’s supporters when the latter attempted to block the prison van with Alsynov inside, demanding to set him free. Police used batons against the protesters, who responded by hurling snowballs and chunks of ice at officers. As the situation escalated, the protesters were exposed to tear gas, smoke bombs and stun grenades. Finally, reinforcements had to be sent to the courthouse to help disperse the crowd.
According to journalists’ estimates, approximately 300 OMON [riot police] and SOBR [Special Rapid Response Unit of Police] fighters formed up in the square. The ASTRA Telegram channel reported that a total of 1,072 law enforcement officers were deployed to disperse the protesters, with reinforcements called in from neighboring Chelyabinsk and Orenburg regions. Law enforcement once again attempted to push back the protesters to clear the way for a police van, leading to some officers being surrounded by the protesters. OMON initiated negotiations with the gathered crowd, including Alsynov’s father. They were offered to move away from the courthouse and release the surrounded officers in exchange for the release of detainees. As revealed by the Agentstvo.Novosti [Agency News] Telegram channel, the negotiations involved Nazim Gayazov, the deputy commander of the Ural OMON unit. Ramil Gareyev, an officer from the Grom [Thunder] special unit of Rosgvardia [the Russian National Guard], was also among the law enforcement officers present. Protesters began dispersing after Alsynov’s father addressed the crowd. Later, Alsynov himself was taken away from the courthouse in a police van.
Video footage from the scene allows us to observe the victims. According to ASTRA, dozens of people were injured. An ambulance arrived at the courthouse. The Sota media outlet learned from a conversation with the medical team that two individuals, who had been beaten with batons, were hospitalized—one with a broken leg. Approximately 20 people sought medical assistance in total. As reported by the Baza Telegram channel, recognized for its proximity to law enforcement, a total of 40 people were affected during the protests. This figure includes 22 police officers and 18 protesters.
Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet] interviewed a resident of Bashkortostan who came to Baymak to support Fail Alsynov and witnessed the beating of protesters outside the courthouse.
Video footage captured outside the courthouse reveals the arrest of several dozen individuals, a development also reported by ASTRA. One of Alsynov's supporters was taken in for questioning by the Federal Security Service (FSB). On the evening of Jan. 17, it was disclosed that a case on mass disorder had been initiated in Baymak due to the protests, potentially leading to up to 15 years of imprisonment for the protesters. Additionally, a criminal case for the use of violence against a government representative was opened, a fact confirmed by the Investigative Committee. The exact number of people detained on criminal charges remains unspecified, but Vyorstka has learned that the court has remanded six activists arrested during the protest, sentencing them to 10 to 13 days of detention under the charge of violating the established procedure for organizing or conducting a rally.
Within a day before the verdict, channels covering Alsynov's case were blocked. On the day of the sentencing, internet access within several kilometers of the Baymak District Court was virtually shut down. The VKontakte social network blocked the group of Bashkir activists, and Instagram suspended the SerleArba profile, which was live-streaming the protests. The Kushtau Bayram Telegram channel, used for coordinating activists, and RusNews, covering protests in Bashkortostan, were also blocked, with access lost even for the editors. They called on Pavel Durov [founder of the app Telegram Messenger] to unblock the channel, and later, access was restored. However, issues with accessing messengers persisted on Jan. 18. The press service of Telegram, speaking to BBC News Russian, stated that they had not restricted access to the messenger "in any regions worldwide, including Bashkortostan." The company speculated that disruptions might be related to "actions by local telecom operators." More details on the blockings can be found in reports from Agentstvo.Novosti and Mediazona.
Supporters of Fail Alsynov have called for "patriots of Bashkortostan" to return from the war, resign from government positions, refuse to pay taxes and boycott Putin. Additionally, soldiers from Bashkortostan in a combat zone have recorded a video expressing support for Alsynov. Meanwhile, soldiers of the Shaimuratov Battalion have requested that Fail Alsynov be sent to their frontline for "reeducation."
Members of the anti-war movement Put Domoy [Way Home] have announced a new flashmob. They have created drawings featuring stylized inscriptions reading "Women for life. We are waiting for you at home" and are encouraging people to print any of them to display on car windows, turn into keychains or use as flyers. Additionally, Put Domoy has posted a stylishly designed appeal to Pavel Durov, asking him not to label their movement as a "fake."
Lawyers from the Voyennye Advokaty [Military Lawyers] Telegram channel highlight that despite the increase in the upper age limit for conscription, men who have reached 27 years of age after Jan. 1, 2024, and have served, have been recognized as unfit for service, or obtained a military ID or a certificate in exchange for it before Dec. 31, 2023, are not subject to conscription. In other cases, young men aged 27 to 30 are liable for statutory military service. All existing draft deferrals granted last year remain in effect. However, the status of citizens who turned 27 in 2023 but did not receive a military ID or a "draft dodger certificate" is unclear. According to the law, they must be enrolled to the reserve force, but they need to appear in person before the draft board to do so. The Voyennye Advokaty Telegram channel has also clarified which IT specialists are eligible for draft deferral this spring. Those falling under its scope must submit an application through the Gosuslugi public services portal from Jan. 22 to Feb. 6, 2024.
In Saint Petersburg, during the official naturalization ceremony, 15 men were served draft notices to register with the military commissariat. A similar ceremony had already taken place in the city in December.
The list of mobilized soldiers killed in the war has been updated to include Aslan Bizhanov from the Orenburg region, Aleksandr Muratov from the Tyumen region, Sergey Ivanukin and Roman Tyukhtin from the Volgograd region, Yegor Ivanov and Dmitry Podobin from the Yaroslavl region, Nikolay Levchenko from the Kursk region, Sergey Shikhov from the Zabaykalsky region and Aleksandr Soshnikov from Moscow.
In one of the areas of Yakutia [Russia's constituent republic of Sakha], mourning was declared for those who were killed in Ukraine. A week ago, a plane landed in the republic carrying the bodies of 26 killed soldiers.
Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, independent Russian investigative media outlet] has revealed the name of one of the conscript sailors who died on the Novocherkassk large landing ship—20-year-old Kirill Korf from Sochi. The publication discovered a request to fortune-tellers for information about Korf, placed by his mother. Additionally, ASTRA has found the names of two more missed in action—19-year-old Vlad Yaryomenko (whether he was a contract soldier, or a conscript is unknown) and 23-year-old contract soldier Dmitry Bryakin from the Saratov region. Earlier reports mentioned the "missed in action" crew member, 24-year-old Aleksandr Kolotvinov from the town of Volzhsky. Thus, the names of four "missed in action" sailors from the Novocherkassk large landing ship are now known.
In the city of Yekaterinburg, the bodies of soldiers were mistakenly switched. Mobilized soldier Ivan A. was killed in the war with Ukraine. His body was brought to Yekaterinburg, and on Jan. 3, the relatives organized his funeral at their own expense since governmental compensation could only be provided after the farewell ceremony. However, on Jan. 8, the draft office informed the wife of the deceased man that the bodies were mixed up, and relatives needed to exhume the wrong body, retrieve the correct one and bury it again at their own expense. Now, the family will only be able to obtain compensation through legal action. Meanwhile, a female resident of Moscow had to raise funds online for the funeral of her military husband. She claims to have approached various authorities and parliament members with a request to bury her husband at the Yasenevskoye Cemetery, which was denied despite his orders and medals.
The Omsk Garrison Military Court has sentenced serviceman Yevgeny Mandrygin to a year and a month in a penal settlement for causing minor harm to health with the use of a weapon. According to investigators, while in a state of alcohol intoxication, the serviceman assaulted his spouse during an argument, inflicting a knife wound to her chest.
On Dec. 20, 2023, a Yekaterinburg court sentenced Viktor Rastorguev, a resident of the city of Nizhny Tagil, to eight years in a maximum security penal colony for charges related to planning an act of terror and attempting the illegal manufacture of explosive substances. According to investigators, he intended to assemble a rocket for the "destruction" of a draft office and UralVagonZavod, a Russian state-owned machine-building company. Rastorguev was arrested in October 2022, and during the search, authorities found an equipped bunker where he stored homemade rockets. During the trial, Rastorguev claimed that he wanted to make fireworks for his granddaughter. He moved to the Ural region from the city of Mariupol several years ago.
The court has sentenced a resident of Kerch to 12 years in a maximum security penal colony for plotting an explosion at an electrical substation in occupied Crimea. According to investigators, the man had "a hostile attitude towards Russia due to the ongoing "special military operation" and allegedly began collaborating with Ukrainian intelligence services.
Male nurse Maksim Asriyan from Saint Petersburg has been sentenced to eight years in a penal colony for plotting an act of terror and treason. According to investigators, Asriyan approached a draft office with means for arson, but changed his mind at the last moment and left. The judicial inquiry took only one day. On the same day, Asriyan was sentenced; he entered into a pre-trial agreement with the investigators, so he received an eight-year sentence instead of the 14 years requested by the prosecutor.
The Appellate Military Court has upheld the verdict previously issued by the 1st Eastern District Military Court against photographer Mikhail Babintsev from Buryatia [Russia's constituent republic]. He was sentenced to 13 years of imprisonment for setting fire to a draft office. On the night of Oct. 18, 2022, he allegedly threw two bottles of gasoline into the draft office in the village of Mukhorshibir: one bottle hit the roof of the building, and the other landed on the ground. Babintsev was detained 10 days later.
In Moscow, the appellate court has overturned the Ivanovo regional court's verdict, which sentenced Artyom Budzherak to six and a half years in a penal colony. He was accused of preparing for intended treason by attempting to join the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The case will be reexamined due to being heard by a single judge instead of three. Budzherak moved to Russia from Ukraine in 2013 and obtained Russian citizenship five years later. He was arrested in 2022 while planning to fly to Serbia with his family.
In Crimea, a 28-year-old man has been detained, allegedly for "gathering information about strategically important objects" on the occupied peninsula for Ukrainian intelligence services. On Jan. 12, a search was conducted at his home, resulting in the seizure of items resembling homemade UAVs and explosive devices. Subsequently, the man was arrested and charged with possession of explosives. The detained individual's name has not been disclosed.
A criminal case for organizing the activities of an extremist organization has been initiated against the wife of a mobilized man from Makhachkala. The specific crime attributed to the woman is not specified in the text, and her last name is also concealed. She faces a fine ranging from 400,000 [$4,000] to 800,000 [$9,000] rubles or imprisonment for six to ten years.
The FSB has arrested a 19-year-old resident of the Altai region on charges of financing terrorism. The intelligence agency claims that the accused "joined a community of a Ukrainian paramilitary group," an organization regarded by Russian authorities as a "terrorist organization." Allegedly, he transferred money to the group's cryptocurrency wallet for the procurement of drones and "military equipment intended for conducting combat operations against the Russian Federation."
Ruslan Zinin, who shot at the military commissar in Ust-Ilimsk after the announcement of mobilization, has described the tortures he endured during the early days of his detention. He was held in shackles for two days, with his hands and feet cuffed, and was not even allowed to use the toilet properly. Another account of torture comes from 19-year-old Vsevolod Kulikov from Lipetsk, accused of attempting to join the "Freedom of Russia Legion." An FSB-shot video confession by Kulikov popped up earlier, where he stated that he was a "supporter of anti-Russian views and nationalist ideology." According to the FSB, his test assignment was to set fire to airfield-based military vehicles. Kulikov writes that after torture, he "was forced to take responsibility for everything he did not commit."