Russian lawmakers have introduced a bill into the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] concerning asset seizures as a punishment for "discrediting the Armed Forces" and "fake news" about them, which the federal government had already endorsed. The bill has garnered the support of 395 individuals, a majority of the State Duma members, including the leaders of all political parties except New People. The Committee on State Building and Legislation has recommended approving the bill in the first reading, which could take place as early as Jan. 24. Vyacheslav Volodin, Speaker of the State Duma, stated that the bill would allow for the confiscation of money, valuables, and other property used to commit or finance crimes against the security of the Russian Federation. The authorities seek to extend asset seizures for crimes defined in the following articles of the Criminal Code:
- Dissemination of "fake news" about the Russian Armed Forces.
- Public calls for extremist activity.
- Public calls for actions aimed at violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.
- "Discrediting" of the Russian Armed Forces.
- Public calls for actions against state security.
- Calls for sanctions against the Russian Federation.
- Providing assistance to foreign governments prosecuting officials and military personnel of the Russian Federation.
- Rehabilitation of Nazism.
Journalist Farida Rustamova notes that the "umbrella" article on “public calls for actions against the state security” criminalizes a wide range of offenses, including failures to execute military orders, desertion, sabotage, illegal border crossing, divulgence of state secrets, treason, and espionage. Legal experts and human rights activists fear that the main target of the new legislation will be journalists and public figures who openly voice their opposition to the war. According to the text of the bill, the authorities also plan to strip such individuals of their official titles and state awards. Earlier, legal experts from Pervyi Otdel [Department One, a human rights project] and Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet] reviewed the proposed changes and the conditions for asset seizures. If passed, courts would be authorized to confiscate a convict's property if it was obtained through "personal gain" or as payment for criminal acts. This includes any money, valuables, or property acquired as a result of the crimes committed. Legal experts from the Agentstvo.Novosti [Agency News] Telegram channel stress, however, that it remains to be seen how courts will interpret "proceeds" from these crimes, potentially leading to a broader application of asset seizures.
Authorities continue to persecute participants of protests in Bashkortostan [Russia's constituent republic]. More than 30 people have been detained. Relatives report that the detainees may have had their phones confiscated, leading to a lack of communication with them. Furthermore, it has come to light that a criminal case has been initiated against a local resident, Dim Davletkildin, on charges of participating in mass riots. Davletkildin came to the local police station upon receiving summons, after which he and a group of others were taken to the city of Ufa. In a separate incident, Ilyas Baygussarov was detained for seven days for organizing an unauthorized rally. He also faces a criminal case related to mass riots. Yuldash Timerbayev, the administrator of the Alga Bashkortostan opposition Telegram channel, has been arrested for nine days. He is charged with organizing an unauthorized rally in Ufa on Jan. 19.
Women from the "DPR" have joined the Put Domoy [Way Home] movement for the first time. On Jan. 21, they laid flowers with white ribbons bearing the message "Bring back the men!" at the monument to the victims of Nazism in the town of Yenakiyevo. The ribbons also featured inscriptions such as "Women for peace" and "Stop the genocide of civilians."
At the same time, activists from the Put Domoy movement have reported instances of police pressure. According to them, on Jan. 19, attempts were made to hack the Telegram accounts of some movement activists. After laying flowers at the Eternal Flame on Mars Field in Saint Petersburg, unidentified individuals in plainclothes demanded that the participants of the action present their documents and show the placards. Later, police officers joined them and suggested going to a police vehicle for "data verification." The activists refused, and the police did not insist. Participants also noted that law enforcement approached them only after journalists had left Mars Field.
A 60-year-old father, Nikolay, whose son Aman was mobilized in the fall of 2022 and went missing last summer in the Zaporizhzhia region, spoke at the courthouse during the trial of Elena Blinovskaya. Aman's official status is currently listed as "missed in action." The regiment's assistant commander for political affairs informed Nikolay that his son is likely deceased, and retrieving his body is not possible due to its location in an area controlled by Ukraine. Despite Nikolay's attempts to protest on Red Square, he was detained and held in police custody for 12 hours.
The government has decided not to develop a military registration registry based on the GosTech digital platform, according to Forbes, citing the protocol of the Digital Development Commission meeting on Dec. 22. Instead, the registry for conscripts will be built from scratch on another platform, Gosoblako, since the original GosTech platform does not support working with state secrets. This change may result in a prolonged development timeline. Initially, MinTsifry [the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media of Russia] aimed to complete the military registration registry by the end of 2023, with operational implementation in 2024. However, these timelines have been pushed to 2025. Experts estimate that creating the new system will take at least a year. Nevertheless, the fall regular conscription campaign in 2024 is expected to utilize this registry, as directed by the president. The Voyennye Advokaty [Military Lawyers] Telegram channel notes that without the registry launch, essential processes such as electronic draft notices distribution and enforcement measures for conscription compliance cannot be implemented.
The authorities in Kyrgyzstan have released a statement commenting on the police raids conducted against migrants in Russia since last fall. Bishkek expressed particular concern regarding a roundup in Yekaterinburg where law enforcement compelled foreign workers duckwalk in a single file. The Kyrgyzstan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has demanded an investigation into the legality of the actions carried out by the Russian law enforcement.
According to the Vyorstka media outlet, at least 18 Russian officials and civil servants have enlisted themselves in the war with Ukraine in order to evade criminal prosecution and sentences. All of them are representatives of regional authorities, with the majority facing criminal cases related to their professional responsibilities. The harshest sentences, amounting to 12 years in a penal colony, were handed to former Vladivostok Mayor Oleg Gumenyuk and former Vice-Governor of the Vladimir region Dmitry Khvostov. At least three officials have been killed in the war.
Andrey Sokolov, an ex-convict recruited into the Storm-Z unit from a penal colony, has been struggling to secure promised payments and documents confirming his status since August 2023. According to Sokolov, he was pardoned on Jan. 9, and by Jan. 11 he had arrived at the frontline. He signed a six-month contract directly on the plane but never received a copy. Throughout this period, working as a medic, he was paid between 40,000 to 70,000 rubles [$450–790] instead of the promised 205,000 rubles [$2,330]. As a result, out of more than a million rubles [$11,500] owed to him, he received just over 300,000 [$3,400]. He also claims that his criminal record has not been expunged, and the draft office refuses to issue him a military ID and a certificate of participation in combat operations.
As revealed by the Astra Telegram channel, a military member recruited from prison has been arrested in the Saratov region for sexual offenses against a minor. A criminal case has been initiated against him. The man has a prior history of multiple convictions.
The Maykop Garrison Military Court sentenced Yevgeny Antoshkin, a mobilized soldier, to a six-year term in a maximum security penal colony for desertion. Additionally, he was stripped of his military rank as Junior Sergeant. According to the investigators, on March 9, he was deployed to a combat zone, but on Apr. 23, managed to escape and return home to the Krasnodar region. In October, he was detained by the police.
In the case of Anton Yakovlev, whose mother managed to bring him back from deployment, the investigator found no evidence of wrongdoing. In September, a criminal case was initiated against a young man for leaving his military unit. He was forced to return to the military unit near Ufa, and from there they planned to dispatch him to the war in Ukraine. However, the criminal case against Yakovlev has been closed.
According to Stanislav Kolesnik, an official from the Russian Interior Ministry, since the beginning of the war, there have been 220 attempts to set fire to draft offices and 184 attempts to carry out sabotage on the railways across 58 regions of Russia. 85% of these 220 arson and attack incidents on government facilities have been resolved, leading to the identification of 220 individuals, including 15 minors. Notably, 141 individuals, of which 59 are teenagers, were involved in the 184 railway sabotage incidents.
The Federal Security Service (FSB) reported the detention of a resident of Barnaul in the Altai region [Russia’s federal subject], who allegedly "established contact with a representative of a terrorist militarized organization banned in Russia" and was reportedly preparing to set fire to a Ministry of Defense facility under their guidance. A criminal case on charges of terrorism has been initiated against the man.
Additionally, the FSB reported the detention of a Novokuznetsk resident on charges of treason. According to law enforcement officers, the man transferred money to support the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
The Saint Petersburg City Court is currently hearing a criminal case against Viacheslav Zaitsev, accused of sabotage. Investigators allege that on March 17, 2023, Zaitsev broke into a relay cabinet on the Gorelovo — Krasnoe Selo stretch and set it on fire. The prosecution has requested a nine-year prison sentence for Zaitsev. During the trial, the defense counsel argued that the accused expressed a desire to join the war in Ukraine, describing this as a "mitigating factor."
The government of the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region–Yugra [Russia's federal subject] has announced the introduction of an electronic certificate of the participant of the "special military operation" or a family member of a deceased combatant. This certificate will be used to credit social benefits.
Blogger Yevgeny Golman announced that officials in the Omsk region responded to the video address appealing for assistance due to the shortage of wheelchairs and crutches in one of the hospitals, and now "the issue with the hospital is resolved."
Buryatia [Russia's constituent republic] spent 400 million rubles [$4.52 million] sponsoring a single district of the "DPR" in a span of one year. At the same time, infrastructure repair projects within the republic itself are temporarily suspended.
Novaya Gazeta Europe [European edition of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta] has published material about ex-convicts fighting in Ukraine. Journalists describe how these new "heroes of the special military operation" justify Vladimir Putin's actions, what they are fighting for, and their opinion on the release of serial killers.