On Dec. 29, 2023, the heads of the Oryol and Voronezh regions, as well as Russia's constituent republic of Buryatia, signed decrees establishing coordination boards to combat separatism. The three decrees resemble each other and stem from a meeting held at the end of October, where President Putin ordered their creation. The boards are composed of the leaders of each region’s security agencies and other officials. They will convene at least once a month, in order to "prevent threats of separatism, nationalism, civil unrest and extremist crimes."
Andrey Kartapolov, Chairman of the Defense Committee of the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia], responded to Saint Petersburg municipal deputy Valery Veremeychik, who had earlier submitted an appeal to the State Duma requesting to limit the service period for mobilized soldiers to one year, with the time spent in the "special military operation" zone limited to six months. In his response, Kartapolov indicated that "all military service issues have been fully resolved" and "the Committee does not support the proposal to change the legislation on this issue." According to him, the Russian Ministry of Defense holds the same position.
In addition, in his interview for Fontanka, a digital media outlet based in Saint Petersburg, Kartapolov reaffirmed that draftees fighting for more than twelve months would not be rotated, as their hands-on military skills were in high demand in the war zone. Kartapolov also believes that there is no need to discharge mobilized civilians in view of the growing proportion of contract soldiers, although at the end of 2022, Russia’s Defense Minister Shoigu planned to reach the recruitment target of 521,000 contract soldiers, including those who were supposed to replace mobilized personnel. However, at the end of 2023, the Ministry of Defense announced that the number of contract soldiers had reached 640,000, while Shoigu reported to have recruited as many as 490,000 men for contract military service in 2023. Kartapolov refused to admit that mobilized soldiers are subjected to any unfair treatment, claiming that they "enjoy appropriate social benefits for completing their tasks," and urged the public to disregard the appeals made by mothers and wives of mobilized soldiers pleading to return their loved ones back home.
In the same interview with Fontanka, Kartapolov said that MinTsifry [the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media of Russia] continued to focus on the digitization of draft notices and on the unified register of military records. Kartapolov estimates that the new digital system will be put in place by 2025.
Based on data published by the Ministry of Defense in the "Army in Numbers, 2023" report, the Demografiya Upala [Demography Decreased] Telegram channel concluded that the authorities did not draft reservists with the most recent military service experience for war but rather "grabbed randomly and chaotically anyone they could'' of all ages. Due to this, the average age of mobilized soldiers is almost the same as that of conscription-age men (18-49 years old at the time of mobilization). Based on information gathered by independent journalists and volunteers from open sources, killed mobilized soldiers are about the same age. Additionally, the channel calculated the proportion of draftees based on their educational level.
The law enforcement officials in Yekaterinburg conducted another round-up against migrants, checking several dozen people for military registration. According to local media, since the beginning of November 2023, over 500 migrants who had previously obtained Russian citizenship have completed compulsory military registration in Yekaterinburg. In addition, 160 people have signed contracts with the Ministry of Defense. Earlier, the authorities stated that 450 people were registered with the Russian military and 150 people had signed contracts.
On Jan. 8, Saint Petersburg Governor Aleksandr Beglov met with relatives of participants in the war with Ukraine. However, representatives of the movement of wives of the mobilized, who have been demanding the return of their husbands home, were not invited to the event, although they had requested a meeting with the governor several months ago. What was discussed at the meeting and how the wives' movement reacted is covered in an article by the Bumaga [Paper] independent media outlet.
The list of mobilized soldiers killed in the war has been updated to include Aleksandr Zolotaryov from the Volgograd region, Ruslan Spesiviy from the Arkhangelsk region, Ilmir Vildanov from Bashkortostan [Russia's constituent republic], Andrey Pikhlayev from the Irkutsk region, and Dmitry Chernikov from the Volgograd region.
A mercenary from Serbia Dejan Berić, who became Putin's trusted agent for the presidential campaign, has claimed that the command of the 119th Regiment, where the Serbian mercenaries recruited by him serve, is constantly mistreating them and calling them "Gypsies." After the mercenaries refused to assault, equipped with "2–3 magazines each" and ordered to capture other weapons in battle, the commanders declared them "deserters and war criminals." When the mercenaries asked to be transferred to another unit, they were kept out in the cold for several days and then were asked to sign papers "admitting they are spies." Berić asserts that the mercenaries were also beaten with rifle butts.
A former volunteer fighter from the "DPR," on his way to the hospital in the city of Luhansk, was stopped at a checkpoint, assaulted, and taken in an unknown direction despite the suspicion of a stroke. His daughter shared this account, saying that people in camouflage stopped them on the way to the hospital. They began to threaten the family, and her mother, who got out of the car at that moment, was beaten. They threatened the daughter with weapons, pointed a gun at her father’s knee, and threatened to shoot him down if he did not come out. After beating him, they took him away. According to the girl, the commandant's office claimed that a contract had been signed for him without his knowledge or presence. She reported that she has filed statements with the police and the prosecutor's office, but her father is still unreachable.
In 2023, the garrison courts of the Southern Military District received 93 criminal cases related to failure to execute orders. Charges were brought under the new part of the article—committing a crime during combat operations. Some garrison military courts had not considered criminal cases under this article for about 10 years. It was also revealed that from November 2022 onwards the Perm Garrison Military Court issued 62 verdicts in criminal cases related to going AWOL for more than one month, committed during the mobilization period. The verdicts do not specify whether the accused were mobilized men, contract soldiers, or volunteer fighters. However, in most cases, the men involved reported leaving the unit to take a break from service or to seek treatment after injuries. The majority of the defendants admitted their guilt fully or in part. Considering this, and given that they had committed no more than one crime, military personnel were often sentenced to five years of probation.
The Mozhem Ob'yasnit [We Can Explain] Telegram channel noted that protests in Russia have become more radical in 2023. Last year was marked by fewer peaceful protests, but there was an increase in the number of "direct action" events. In Russia, draft offices and relay cabinets were set on fire, and railroad tracks exploded. Minors are often charged for these actions, and some arsonists have been coerced into committing such acts under false pretenses.
A court in Chelyabinsk stripped a migrant of his newly acquired Russian citizenship for evading military registration. The man was supposed to register within two weeks after obtaining citizenship but failed to appear at the draft office. Now he must leave Russia.
In Nizhny Tagil, an explosion occurred on the railway. According to preliminary information, an explosive device detonated under a tanker near the San-Donato station, in close proximity to an oil depot. Another explosive device was found near the explosion site, as reported by the 112 and the Baza Telegram channels. Local media later published photos of an unexploded device installed on one of the train's tankers. Additionally, according to reports, law enforcement officers are "stopping every car, checking the drivers' documents, and even those of the passengers." Russian Railways [Russian fully state-owned railway company] has not ruled out train delays due to ongoing operational work; train traffic on the Nizhny Tagil-Goroblagodatskaya section is currently restricted.
The SHOT pro-government Telegram channel reported that on the evening of Jan. 7, a relay cabinet was set on fire near the Malchiki station in Lyubertsy, the Moscow region. The fire was quickly detected and extinguished, and the incident did not affect train traffic. According to SHOT, three schoolchildren aged 12, 15, and 16 were detained on suspicion of arson. They were summoned to the police, where they allegedly confessed to the crime, having agreed to do it for a reward offered to them on the Internet.
In Murmansk, a tourist from Germany has been detained for allegedly taking pictures of a train. According to the Astra Telegram channel, on Jan. 7, a security guard called the police for a photographer who was reportedly taking pictures of a train in a park near the passenger cars. The police apprehended a 34-year-old German citizen named Erik Binkli. The man explained that he was a tourist interested in trains. However, he was still handed over to the Federal Security Service (FSB). The current whereabouts of the tourist are unknown.
The Sibir.Realii [part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty] online media outlet reported that Russian courts processed 2,870 protocols on "discrediting" the Armed Forces in 2023. The total number of protocols on this charge since the start of the full-scale war reached 8,400. Most cases of "discrediting" in 2023 were in March, with 335 cases, while the fewest were recorded in December, with 125 cases. The regions with the highest number of "discrediting" cases include Moscow, annexed Crimea, and Saint Petersburg.
In the Yamalo-Nenets autonomous region [Russia's federal subject], activists of the Union of Marines movement are organizing special classes to teach how to operate drones, with plans to train around 300 people.
Mobilized men from the Irkutsk region recorded a video address to the mayor of the Ust-Kut district, Sergey Anisimov, accusing him of failing to fulfill promises to supply thermal cameras to the soldiers. They claim that without thermal cameras, they cannot detect enemy drones. As a result, only three men from the platoon that went on the attack survived. The soldiers warn the mayor that they may return and "fight back." They also refer to the mayor as "you Muscovite," which may indicate resentment towards the perceived disparities between Moscow and the poorer regions.
In the Yamalo-Nenets autonomous region, students and teachers of a school in the city of Noyabrsk have woven a camouflage robe for participants in the "special military operation." Meanwhile, in Krasnoyarsk, the wives of mobilized soldiers are using art therapy and beauty days to divert their thoughts from suicide.
As revealed by the Vyorstka media outlet, sociological studies conducted in the interests of the presidential administration indicate a decline in the level of support for the war among Russian citizens and a growing desire for peace. According to a source familiar with the sociological data collected for the Kremlin in December, 80% of Russians rule out the possibility of participating in protests, with only 10% considering it.
The Spektr [Spectrum] media outlet prepared a report from the camp for Russian POWs in Western Ukraine, detailing the conditions of the camp and the daily lives of the prisoners.
Journalists from the Sibir.Realii [part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty] online media outlet have reported on how lawyers are navigating the legal system to secure actual demobilization for their clients or, at the very least, impede their deployment to the frontline. This is happening despite official statements asserting that mobilized individuals will only be able to return home after the completion of the "special military operation."