mobilization briefs
March 16

Mobilization in Russia for March 14-15, 2024 CIT Volunteer Summary

Army Recruitment and Military Service Advertising

In the Vodnik detention center in Moscow, officials offered Oleg Orlov, Co-Chairman of the Memorial human rights group, to conclude a military service contract and join the war. Officials disregarded both his age — Orlov is 70 — and his anti-war stance, a representative from Memorial stated, noting that Orlov declined the offer. On Feb. 27, his previous sentence of 150,000 rubles [$1,640] for "defamation of the Russian Army" was replaced with a two-and-a-half-year term in a penal colony.

In the Ivanovo region, authorities summoned an election observer from the Communist Party to report to a draft office at 10 a.m. on March 15.

In the Irkutsk region, authorities plan to double the sign-up bonus paid to individuals who enlist to fight in the war from 200,000 rubles [$2,185] to 400,000 rubles [$4,370].

Mobilized Soldiers, Volunteer Fighters and Contract Soldiers

Southern Military District officials have begun withholding certificates of combat veteran status from ex-convicts who serve in Storm-Z units. One ex-convict linked the situation to the Sogaz insurance company, which pays compensation to the military personnel of the Ministry of Defense. Reportedly, the company’s agreement with the Ministry of Defense does not cover individuals serving in volunteer fighter units, such as Storm-Z. It is worth noting, however, that officials from other military districts continue to issue such certificates to military personnel from regions under their jurisdiction.

The list of mobilized soldiers killed in the war has been updated to include Andrey Sizikov, Yevgeny Rudenko, and Andrey Popov from the Sverdlovsk region, Anton Antonov from Russia’s constituent Republic of Chuvashia, and Pyotr Lyudvig from the Irkutsk region.

Based on open sources, Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet] and BBC News Russian, together with volunteers, have verified the names of 47,701 Russian fighters killed in Ukraine, including 5,765 mobilized soldiers. Since the last update on March 8, the list has been supplemented with 1,023 soldiers, 138 of whom were mobilized.

Governor of the Novgorod region Andrey Nikitin has posted on social media about Stanislav Lapin, whom he described as a "hero of the special military operation." However, comments on the post revealed that Lapin is a former convict with multiple criminal records, including the rape of a minor. His neighbors report receiving threats from him. Initially, Nikitin closed the comments under his post and then deleted it from his Telegram channel.

Sentences, Legal Proceedings and Incidents

Contract soldier Ruslan Kovalenko has been sentenced to six and a half years in a maximum security penal colony for desertion. Previously serving in People's Militia of the so-called DPR, Kovalenko signed a contract with the Russian Ministry of Defense on July 27, 2022, and left the duty station on July 30, 2022 after a missile attack the day before. He was detained on Sept. 8, 2023, in the Krasnodar region.

Federal Security Service (FSB) officers have detained a resident of Moscow who allegedly, following the instructions of Ukrainian intelligence services, was constructing and launching drones near the Russian Ministry of Defense facilities "to influence air defense systems." A criminal case of treason has been initiated against him.

According to the Astra Telegram channel, 26-year-old Sergey Veselov has been detained in the city of Elektrostal for attempting to join the "Freedom of Russia Legion." He allegedly subscribed to a Telegram channel of this unit and received certain tasks from handlers.

The FSB has reported the detention of a woman in the occupied city of Mariupol, "suspected of espionage and providing information about the locations of military personnel." Additionally, a resident of the Penza region has been detained for "passing information about defense industry facilities to the Armed Forces of Ukraine." Moreover, in the Belgorod region, another woman has been detained for "preparing sabotage on a railway object on the instructions of Ukrainian intelligence services."

The FSB accuses three young people from the Chelyabinsk region of preparing an act of terror. Law enforcement officers have been investigating the criminal case against Ildar Baymukhametov, Ilya Kuznetsov, and Mikhail Novikov since the fall.

As noted by the Sota media outlet, on March 13, the Lefortovo District Court in Moscow issued six search warrants under the charges of high treason. As reported by the Net Freedoms human rights project, at least some of the mass searches carried out this week related to Pyotr Verzilov's criminal case on treason were authorized by the same court.

Activist Marina-Victoria Nagornykh from Murmansk wasarrested for the third time in seven days for holding a poster with the inscription "Navalny." The court and the police considered this as a "demonstration of the symbolism of an extremist organization," according to the Pervy Otdel [First Department] human rights project.

According to the calculations made by the Vyorstka media outlet, repression in Crimea has increased by 1.5 to 2 times since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In the 10 years since Crimea's annexation, Russian judges on the peninsula have considered more than 170 criminal cases under repressive articles. Moreover, only in the last two years, 40% of all cases under such articles filed since 2014 have been brought to the courts of Crimea and Sevastopol. The scale of repression on the peninsula exceeds that in other regions with comparable populations.

Children and Educational System

The Committee of Families of Soldiers of the Fatherland in Irkutsk plans to open public speaking courses for Russian soldiers. According to the organizers, this will "help conduct patriotic work with schoolchildren and students."

Volgograd authorities will purchase nine drone control systems for a youth camp.

Mediazona shared the biography of Nikita Semyanov, previously sentenced to nine years in prison for the murder of his ex-wife's father. It is alleged that Semyanov organized "orgies with minors." He was recruited for the war while in prison. After his return from the war, he leads patriotic education in schools in Novosibirsk.

Russia’s "Presidential Election"

On March 15 to 17, Russia holds its "presidential election." Even before its start, the Moscow prosecutor's office threatened criminal liability for participation in the "Noon Against Putin'' action advocated by Alexei Navalny's allies. According to the prosecutor's office, the action could disrupt the work of election commissions and the exercise of electoral rights, for which the maximum punishment is one year of corrective labor. Independent lawyers point out that mere participation in the action on March 17, essentially voting at noon, is unlikely to result in punishment, since it is impossible to identify those who participated in the action and those who did not. On March 15, the prosecutor's office issued another warning, stating that "simultaneous arrival" at polling stations is a criminal offense. Their third warning threatened imprisonment for those who invite minors to take part in the action. Moscow polling stations began posting announcements with quotations from the Criminal Code. Activists in the city of Vladimir received warnings from police officers on the eve of the "elections'' about the inadmissibility of committing offenses, crimes, and antisocial behavior. In the Sverdlovsk region, observers from the Public Chamber were instructed to prevent attempts to hold the "Noon Against Putin'' action at polling stations. Mediazona reports on various methods of political pressure used by authorities against activists and observers.

Moreover, users of messaging apps in Russia are being sent fake messages about the "rescheduling" of the "Noon Against Putin" action to the end of the day. Also, authorities are attempting to supplant the event with various activities: schools and kindergartens are organizing concerts and other events en masse exactly at noon on March 17.

Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, an independent Russian investigative media outlet] highlights that the Russian authorities have registered 4.5 million people for elections in the occupied regions of Ukraine. This figure starkly contrasts with the Ministry of Internal Affairs' previous report of only 3.2 million residents in those areas. Such a discrepancy suggests potential plans for widespread falsifications. According to a demographer's estimate, the actual number of permanent residents in these four regions is unlikely to exceed 3 million, of which about 2.5 million are adults. This means that the election commission's announced number of voters is 80% higher than the estimated actual population, indicating a significant inflation of voter numbers.

At the same time, the Russian authorities have launched a large-scale campaign to compel the population of the occupied territories of Ukraine to participate in the Russian presidential elections. For instance, authorities are sending campaigners with ballot boxes directly to people's homes, citing concerns for safety. Additionally, Russian military personnel have increased patrols accompanying election commission staff compared to the "referendum" on the incorporation of the occupied territories into the Russian Federation in September 2022.

On the morning of March 15, during the electronic voting in Moscow, disruptions were recorded due to an "unprecedented number of participants." Experts suggest that these issues may have resulted from the mandate requiring public sector employees to vote specifically in the morning hours. Ilya Massukh, the head of the Electronic Headquarters, reported that Moscow's electronic voting system was allegedly targeted by cyberattacks. The Roskomsvoboda project notes that disruptions in the operation of the Gosuslugi public services portal were reported by residents of the Sverdlovsk region, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, the Krasnodar region, and the Novosibirsk region. Similar complaints are coming from the Volgograd and Vladimir regions. There are also reports of problems with viewing video broadcasts from polling stations.

Russian citizens are actively being coerced to participate in voting. The leadership of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences urged its institute employees to cast their votes specifically on March 15. At the Novosibirsk State University of Architecture, Design, and Arts, morning classes were canceled to "ensure the attendance of students and faculty at the elections," with each student required to report back on their voting by noon on March 15. Students at higher education institutions in the Omsk region must also report on their participation in the "presidential elections." Meanwhile, in Yekaterinburg, public sector employees are mandated to vote before starting their workday, with similar reports of compulsory voting emerging from the Vladimir region. In Bratsk, some residents have reported being coerced into voting, with the added requirement of submitting evidence of their vote to their human resources departments. Public sector workers in Saint Petersburg and their relatives received instructions on how to confirm their attendance at polling stations. This follows earlier directives for city workers to "strongly consider" voting at their workplace on Friday, March 15, instead of their local polling station. Those unwilling to comply with these demands are being threatened with the cancellation of bonuses and cuts in funding.

Head of the Udmurt republic Aleksandr Brechalov instructed officials to "mobilize" Putin's loyal voters to cast their ballots before March 17. In annexed Crimea, public sector employees are also being coerced to participate in the "elections."

On March 7, Golos [the movement for voters' rights] reported that the United Russia party [Putin’s ruling party] had created a service to monitor the turnout of voters loyal to the authorities. The organization also noted that this application directly violates the principles of voting secrecy and freedom of expression.

Lawyers and activists have developed bots to count votes and assist public sector employees subjected to coercion to vote for Putin. For instance, the VoteHelper bot is designed to simulate a vote for Putin in photos that workers are required to send to their employers as proof of voting.

The first day of voting, March 15, witnessed numerous incidents across polling stations. At a polling station in Novosibirsk, an unidentified individual tainted the ballots with a coloring substance, and a similar incident happened in Lytkarino, Moscow region. Similar disturbances occurred in Moscow, Dmitrov, Sochi, Izhevsk, Veliky Novgorod, Kurgan, Karachay-Cherkessia [Russia’s constituent republic], Rostov, Volgograd, Voronezh, as well as in the Kurgan and Novgorod regions, the Krasnoyarsk region, and in annexed Simferopol, where voters poured green dye into ballot boxes.

In Saint Petersburg, a young woman threw a Molotov cocktail onto the porch of a school housing two polling stations. Later, she was apprehended. Similar incidents have occurred across the country. For example, in the Moscow region, an elderly woman doused gasoline into a voting booth and set it on fire. In Chuvashia, another woman also attempted to set fire to a ballot box. In Moscow, a woman set fire to a voting booth at one of the polling stations. She was detained, and a criminal case was opened against her. Arson attacks also occurred in Ivanovo, Voronezh, the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region–Yugra [Russia's federal subject] and the Sverdlovsk region. In Chelyabinsk, an elderly woman attempted to detonate a firecracker inside a polling station building. According to the 7x7—Gorizontalnaya Rossiya [Horizontal Russia] news outlet, at least 17 such cases are known. According to the Sirena news outlet, there have been 18 incidents, with at least 12 people detained. Criminal cases are being initiated against the detainees (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Moreover, all those detained for ballot tampering are being checked for collaboration with the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) to press charges of "treason" instead of "obstruction of the electoral process." Against this background, the Central Election Commission has called for increased security at polling stations. However, the election commissions do not intend to invalidate the election results at polling stations where ballots have been tainted with green dye.

In the Belgorod region, elections are taking place against the backdrop of alarm signals for missile threats. Many public institutions in the region are closed, polling stations are equipped with first aid kits, with instructions for providing first aid prominently displayed. During early voting, election commission members, donning helmets and body armor, visited areas under fire to facilitate home voting. As of 3:00 p.m. on March 15, according to the Central Election Commission, voter turnout in the region reached 50%, including remote electronic voting and early voting, which took place from March 10 to March 14. However, simultaneously, on the Rossiya-1 [Russia-1] government-owned federal TV channel, it was reported that as of 1:45 p.m. on the same day, voter turnout in the Belgorod region was only 3.92%.

Other regions also reported unusually high turnout on March 15. For instance, in the Novosibirsk region, 35% of registered voters in remote electronic voting had already cast their ballots, while in the Sverdlovsk region, it was over 40%. Kamchatka demonstrated a record percentage of voters in remote electronic voting: by 9:00 p.m. local time, over 80% of registered voters had voted. Overall turnout in the region on the first day of voting reached 34.63%. The Magadan Election Commission reported a turnout of 38% by midday on the first day of voting. Tuva reported a turnout of 62.25% at the end of the first day of voting, and in the Kemerovo region, it was 61.62%. Moreover, in over 400 polling stations in the Far East, turnout on the first day of elections allegedly reached 100%.