On Wednesday Jan. 24, the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] adopted a bill in its first reading concerning asset seizures and the deprivation of honorary titles as punishment for "discrediting the Armed Forces," "fake news" about them, and a range of other criminal offenses. 395 members of the State Duma supported the bill, with three voting against it. Journalist Farida Rustamova reports that these three are Sardana Avksentyeva and Ksenia Goryacheva from the New People party and Sergey Shargunov from the Communist Party. According to parliamentary sources of the Vyorstka media outlet, some lawmakers called the bill "raw and illegal," but the State Duma approved it nevertheless. State Duma member Andrey Lugovoy declared that "anyone who, from this moment on, tries to harm their homeland, their country, and the citizens of the Russian Federation, will lose everything."
The OVD-Info independent human rights project reported on the latest events in Bashkortostan [Russia's constituent republic]. For a week after the mass protests, law enforcement officials have been conducting searches and detaining or arresting participants. People have begun creating support groups to cope with this. While gathering information, an OVD-Info reporter received a call from a person they had interviewed earlier, who asked them to delete all photos and videos where the protesters’ faces could be seen, because the police have reportedly been using them to identify participants.
A court in Ufa has released additional names of protesters in Baymak arrested during the last few days. According to the court’s press releases, Galim Zamanov, Ilshat Ulyabayev, Akhat Gibadullin, and Ayrat Yakupov were charged on Jan. 23 with taking part in mass unrest. On Jan. 24, similar charges were filed against Alfinur Rakhmatulina, Danis Akhmetov, Khalid Ishkuvatov, Dim Bulyakbayev, Aytugan Malabayev, and Ilnur Khazhiev. The arrests of Dayan Valeyev and Rayat Davletbaev have also become known. In addition to the charges for participating in mass unrest, the two men are also accused of assaulting law enforcement personnel. Aytugan Kitikov has also been detained. It is currently unknown what charges he is facing. The Bashkortostan singer Altynay Valitov, who expressed support for the protests and who had complained earlier about being pressured by the authorities left Russia citing threats of criminal persecution.
Authorities in the Zabaykalsky region [Russia's federal subject] decided to hold meetings with residents in an effort to prevent protests similar to those happening in Dagestan, Bashkortostan, and Sakha (Yakutia) [all Russia’s constituent Republics].
Activists advocating for the return of the mobilized have prepared a petition on the Russian Public Initiative website. The petition calls for issuing a decree to conclude mobilization, providing draft deferral for fathers of three or more underage children and children with disabilities. It also urges granting draft deferral certificates for men working in strategically significant fields, allowing unhindered participation in conscription and medical commissions for State Duma deputies, senators, deputies of legislative bodies of regions, and municipal deputies. The activists seek to permit the substitution of statutory military service with alternative civilian service on an applicant's request. According to the activists, the Dnevnik Kazaka [Cossack's Diary] Telegram channel, which had previously reported on the mobilized individual Aleksandr Shpilevoy being sent to the pit, was blocked overnight. The channel had recently been promoting the petition on the website of the Russian Public Initiative.
In an investigation, Vyorstka revealed that authorities are promoting contract-based military service under the guise of "social advertising." Advertising networks of companies like VKontakte and Yandex are used for this agitation. Apart from the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media of Russia, similar "social advertising" campaigns are launched by authorities in Saint Petersburg, Moscow region, and other regions. These ads have been displayed to users via the Yandex network over 200 million times. The placement of such advertising is facilitated by the Internet Development Institute.
In the Chelyabinsk region, one-time regional payments for local residents who have signed a contract with the Ministry of Defense to participate in the war have tripled since the beginning of the year: from 75,000 rubles [$842] to 225,000 rubles [$2,540].
Following the spontaneous protest action in Sakha (Yakutia) on Jan. 24, raids were conducted against migrants. As a result, 22 former migrants, now Russian citizens, were served draft notices. In addition, authorities have promised to tighten controls over the employment of migrants and to monitor their military registration more closely if they have received Russian citizenship.
A raid against migrants took place in the Chelyabinsk region as well. Men with Russian citizenship were handed draft notices. The exact number of notices served has not been disclosed.
At least 62 individuals have had their acquired Russian citizenship revoked by law enforcers in the three months since the adoption of the citizenship law. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the majority of these decisions were made in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, the Vladimir region, and some other regions of Russia.
Sergey Serenko, an entrepreneur from the Altai region [Russia’s federal subject], who was sentenced to 11 years in prison for alleged poppy smuggling, was pardoned after signing a contract with the Ministry of Defense to participate in the war with Ukraine. It is worth noting that Serenko claimed that his case was fabricated, and an expert examination conducted as part of the criminal case confirmed that the poppy, he imported, had all the proper documentation. Despite this, he was convicted in 2021.
The list of mobilized soldiers killed in the war has been updated to include Sergey Yablonskiy from Russia's constituent Republic of Buryatia, Aleksandr Dudin from the Arkhangelsk region, Denis Sherstyuk from the Volgograd region and Anton Gogol from the Altai region.
Recruits from penal colonies are now signing one-year contracts with the Ministry of Defense instead of six-month contracts, as BBC News Russian has learned from relatives of convicts and war veterans. There is now an auto-renewal clause in the contract, and convicts no longer receive pardons from Putin, fighting instead in the status of a person on probation. This norm was recently incorporated into the law. They are not released on parole, which requires a court decision. In the case of probationary release, a decision of a penal institution or a draft office, where convicts sign a contract, is sufficient. Unlike before, they are now recruited into Storm-V units instead of Storm-Z units.
Ex-convicts from Storm-Z units do not receive pardons and payments for injuries, according to Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, independent Russian investigative media outlet]. The publication obtained the copy of an appeal by ex-convicts to Vladimir Putin. One of the applicants confirmed its authenticity and answered the journalists' questions. Roman Polyakov, a 42-year-old from Moscow who was recruited into the Storm-Z unit in the summer of 2023 after 20 years of imprisonment, received multiple shrapnel wounds on the frontline. According to him, he received half of his salary on the frontline and did not receive combat allowance at all. After returning from the frontline, his criminal record was not cleared and he did not receive compensation for his injuries. Furthermore, the command stated that former convicts are not entitled to compensation under Decree No. 98. Instead of contracts with the Ministry of Defense, the Storm-Z fighters have signed agreements to assist the so-called Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) in "liberating Donetsk and Luhansk territories."
Another ex-convict, enlisted for the war from a Chuvash prison, has disclosed the violation of previously stated conditions. Having been promised a salary of 200,000 rubles ($2,250), full amnesty, and the right to terminate the contract after a year, the convict reveals that the bank card was linked to a nonexistent number, rendering it unusable. Neither he nor his relatives have been able to receive the payments, which turned out to be significantly less than what was promised. Upon arriving at the frontline, the convicts were informed that they would be fighting until the end of the war. In December, the former convict decided to return home. He is willing to surrender but only if sent to prison to serve his sentence, not back to the frontline.
The Sota media outlet and Dovod, independent Russian media outlet, have noted that courts have classified cases of conditional early releases throughout the entire war period since 2022. According to journalists, this was done to conceal the extent of recruiting convicts for the war. As per Article 5 of the 2023 law on the release of convicts for wartime participation, they are conditionally released, a decision impossible without a court hearing.
In the Omsk region, a war participant from Ukraine was arrested for drug trafficking. In the car of 36-year-old Yegor Monaenkov from Krasnoyarsk, 4.8 kg of mephedrone was found. Monaenkov, previously convicted twice for drug trafficking, left prison to join the war.
According to the Astra Telegram channel, Anton Fenyuk, a 32-year-old contract soldier, barricaded himself in an apartment within a three-story building in the Amur region and threatened to detonate it with a grenade. The man was successfully detained, and no one was injured.
In the "DPR," a soldier has been arrested for attempting to kill his commander after the commander refused to arrange the soldier's evacuation, despite the soldier's alleged war-inflicted injury. According to the case materials, in July 2023, the arrested individual stabbed himself in the abdomen. Afterward, he insisted on his evacuation, but the commander refused to formalize it. In response, the man stabbed the commander in the chest with a knife. A criminal case has been initiated against the soldier for attempted murder and self-inflicted injury.
Law enforcement officers are refusing to initiate a criminal case into the death of soldier Mikhail Monatov, as reported by his wife. The military unit claims that he committed suicide. On Jan. 13, 2024, ex-convicts who were undergoing training in Murom and had been recruited for the war, under the influence of alcohol,threw Monatov and his fellow soldier out of the window of a seventh-floor apartment.
A court in Samara has sentenced a father of two to 2 years in a penal settlement for failure to execute orders. The man had entered into a six-month contract on Oct. 6, 2022, and refused to go to Ukraine on Apr. 7, 2023, claiming that the contract had expired a few days earlier. The court ruled that "during mobilization, contracts for military service entered into by servicemen remain in effect until its completion."
In the Volgograd region, a court sentenced Nikolay Troitsky, a mobilized soldier who lost his military unit on the frontline, to five and a half years in a penal colony for going AWOL. According to the mobilized soldier’s lawyer, he fell behind his fellow soldiers after a three-day trip to the store and then returned to Volgograd.
In the Chelyabinsk region, a 32-year-old mountaineer named Velimor Merkulov, who intended to climb Mount Yamantau with a Ukrainian flag, is accused of making calls for terrorism and treason. According to the investigators, he allegedly confessed to friends his desire to cross the Ukrainian border.
A court in North Ossetia [Russia’s constituent republic] sentenced a resident of Yekaterinburg to five years in prison for high treason, as he attempted to join the Armed Forces of Ukraine. 19-year-old Nikita Menshov allegedly contacted representatives of an armed formation in a messenger app to express his intention to join them. In March 2023, he flew to Vladikavkaz to meet the group's representatives "on the territory of a neighboring state," where he was detained by the Federal Security Service (FSB).
A court in the Sverdlovsk region sentenced 74-year-old Lyubov Shulina to one and a half years of probation for attempting to set fire to the draft office. According to the investigators, Shulina transferred hundreds of thousands of rubles to scammers who posed as bank employees. On March 31, 2023, they persuaded the elderly woman to commit arson at the draft office. Following their instructions, she made a Molotov cocktail but failed to ignite it on the spot and was subsequently detained.
A court in Kyrgyzstan has reversed a verdict handed to the mercenary Askar Kubanychbek who participated in the war against Ukraine on the side of Russia as a volunteer fighter. Instead, the court put him on probation.