mobilization briefs
March 19

Mobilization in Russia for March 17-18, 2024 CIT Volunteer Summary

Russia’s "Presidential Election"

(The first and the subsequent two days of the vote.)

Polls closed in Russia after three days of voting in the so-called presidential election.

The Central Election Commission announced the results after tabulating 100% of the ballots. Vladimir Putin received 87.28% of the vote, Nikolay Kharitonov of the CPRF [the Communist Party of the Russian Federation] received 4.31% and Vladislav Davankov of the Novye Luydy [New People] party got 3.20%. The Ministry of Defense announced that 99.27% of the military service members participating in the war with Ukraine voted for Putin.

The European Union issued a statement regarding the "election" in Russia, refraining from explicitly stating non-recognition of the results. The statement only reiterates that the EU does not recognize the holding of these so-called "election" in the annexed territories of Ukraine. At the same time, the Foreign Minister of Lithuania stated that his country will not recognize Putin’s election and the German Ministry of Defense announced that it will not refer to Putin as the President of Russia.

In a statement following the conclusion of Russia’s presidential election, independent vote monitoring group Golos pointed out widespread voter suppression practices, such as violations of the fundamental constitutional rights, voter intimidation and coercion, ballot secrecy violations and removal of independent observers from polling locations. According to election researcher Ivan Shukshin who collaborates with Golos and Sirena [an independent Telegram channel], as many as 22 million votes may have been added fraudulently in favor of Putin. At least 29% of Putin’s result is fabricated, while the maximum amount of fake votes for Putin may reach 40%. It should be noted that the occupied regions of Ukraine were not considered in the analysis. Novaya Gazeta Europe [European edition of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta] used a method devised by mathematician Sergey Shpilkin to reveal that at least 22 million votes cast for Putin during last weekend’s election were fake. Russia’s leading independent election analyst Sergey Shpilkin showed that if the election were fair, the distribution of votes for the leading candidate and all other candidates should be identical and should differ only in absolute value due to the different number of votes. However, stuffing ballot boxes for one of the candidates increases turnout and affects the proportion of votes going to each candidate. Novaya Gazeta’s conclusions were confirmed by findings made by Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, independent Russian investigative media outlet].

Other than that, evidence of voter fraud committed by election commissions at the district and regional level was detected in Moscow (1, 2, 3, 4), Saint Petersburg (1, 2), Nizhny Novgorod (1, 2, 3) and Tula. In the city of Barnaul, a recount of votes was carried out at one of the polling stations following the initial victory of Nikolay Kharitonov, however, the final election result is still unknown.

Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet] has tallied at least 44 cases of attacks on polling stations and attempts to spoil ballots in 29 regions over the course of three days of voting. The youngest person detained was 13 years old, while the oldest was 80. Law enforcement officers have initiated at least 31 criminal cases, with four individuals being sent to pre-trial detention centers. Police reported 52 attempts to smuggle coloring or flammable liquids into polling stations. In total, during the "election" in Russia, 61 criminal cases were initiated, with 23 of them related to "deliberately misleading terrorism act reports." Dmitry Reut, the deputy chairman of the Moscow City Election Commission, stated that the 115 ballots soaked in brilliant green in Moscow were taken into account when tallying the votes.

In Khakassia [Russia’s constituent republic], a local resident has been arrested for two months for detonating fireworks at a polling station. The incident occurred at the polling station in the administration building of the town of Chernogorsk on March 15, where the man allegedly "detonated a pyrotechnic device." He is accused of conspiring and committing hooliganism in a group. Additionally, a resident of the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region–Yugra [Russia's federal subject] who set fire to a polling station has been arrested for obstructing the exercise of electoral rights. The 58-year-old woman allegedly threw a Molotov cocktail at a polling station on March 15. In the Krasnoyarsk region, a court has ordered a two-month arrest for a woman who poured brilliant green into a ballot box in the village of Kuragino. Meanwhile, a court in Moscow refused to place a local resident under house arrest in a case related to obstructing election. According to the document, the elderly woman has no prior criminal record and suffers from cancer.

On March 16, another resident of Moscow was placed under house arrest in connection with allegations of hindering the operations of an election commission. Moreover, the Astra Telegram channel sources report that on March 16 in Samara, a 36-year-old military serviceman from the 30th Motorized Rifle Brigade, dressed in military attire, allegedly attempted to set an polling station ablaze by throwing a Molotov cocktail at its wall. The incident did not result in a fire or any casualties, and as of now, no criminal case has been initiated.

According to the Central Election Commission, Putin garnered over 72% of the vote in overseas precincts. Vazhnyye Istorii examined the results and calculated that 46% of such ballots for Putin came from military units abroad, as well as countries and quasi-states effectively controlled by Russia: Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Belarus and Syria. Meanwhile, the Kovcheg [Ark] project pointed out discrepancies between exit poll data and Central Election Commission figures. For instance, in Istanbul, Putin's vote share surged from 5%, according to exit polls, to 44.8%, according to the Central Election Commission, and in Tallinn, from 8% to 75.2%.

Vazhnyye Istorii also looked into the proportion of polling stations at which the busiest hours were from noon to 3:00 p.m. on March 17. This time interval coincides with the "Noon Against Putin" action. Overall, 10% of polling stations fall into this category. Across Russia, for most polling stations (40%), the busiest voting time was the early half of the day on Friday, March 15 (from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.), despite being a workday. This indicates an administrative interference in the voting process. Meanwhile, the Bumaga [Paper] independent media outlet has reported that between noon and 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, polling stations in Saint Petersburg saw a surge of 115,200 voters compared to other three-hour intervals.

Reports of detentions continue to emerge. In Kerch, a resident was arrested for consuming his ballot paper, leading to an investigation into his actions. In Sevastopol, an 18-year-old was detained due to writing "No war, peace for Ukraine" on his ballot before depositing it in the voting box. He is currently under investigation for possible "defamation of the Russian Army." In Saint Petersburg, law enforcement personnel dragged a voter out of a voting booth, suspecting him of spoiling his ballot. A police officer insisted that the man reveal his ballot. Holod [independent Russian media outlet] reports that the man finally managed to vote only after the precinct election commission’s chairperson interceded. In Balakovo, Saratov region, a Communist Party election observer, 50-year-old Damir Khisyametdinov, was detained by the police.

Reports of assaults during the election are also emerging. In Saint Petersburg, on the night of March 18, members of territorial election commission No. 38 assaulted Olesya Vasilchenko, a member with a casting vote, during the vote count. In Moscow, an unidentified person at a police station reportedly assaulted Vera Indienko, an election observer from the Communist Party and an anesthesiologist. Indienko was detained for 12 days based on a report from other observers, accusing her of engaging in "radical" correspondence, including inciting arson and disruption of the election. Additionally, a resident of Bratsk reported being beaten and threatened with finger amputation by the police for allegedly "voting incorrectly."

A resident of Saratov reported the distribution of draft notices at polling stations. However, the Saratov election commission denies these claims.

Authorities and Legislation

The federal government has introduced a bill into the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] to fine officials who fail to fulfill their territorial defense duties in areas under martial law.

Army Recruitment and Military Service Advertising

Officials are recruiting volunteers to join the Russian Army onboard one of the cars of the "Strength in Truth" special train of the Ministry of Defense, which recently made a stop in Chelyabinsk.

The Voyennye Advokaty [Military Lawyers] Telegram channel posted a reminder about the upcoming decree to start the spring regular conscription campaign. It will be the first campaign with an upper age limit raised to 30 years. It is too early to tell whether authorities will attempt to call up individuals who turned 27 in 2023 but did not get a chance to transfer into the reserve. The law allows for these transfers to happen automatically, but in practice, the process is still manual. Authorities might also begin testing the distribution of digital draft notices during this campaign, even though the Unified Draft Registry is not ready yet. Finally, the legal experts note that all delivered draft deferral certificates continue to be valid.

Authorities and Relatives of Mobilized Soldiers

On Feb. 16 in Moscow, authorities closed access to the Alexander Garden, where the wives of mobilized soldiers have been laying flowers every Saturday. The Put Domoy [Way Home] Telegram channel accused the authorities of attempting to prevent the movement participants from gathering during the "presidential election." The women went to Park Pobedy [Victory Park] instead under the apparent surveillance of intelligence service officers.

The Put Domoy [Way Home] movement has declared that they were writing anti-war messages on ballots and voting against Putin. After the election ended, a post appeared in the movement's Telegram channel, where they called the results of the presidential election a "spit in the face" and the announced result of 87% of the vote as a falsification. They intend to continue their fight to bring mobilized men home.

Mobilized Soldiers, Volunteer Fighters and Contract Soldiers

The list of mobilized soldiers killed in the war has been updated to include Ilgiz Fatkhislamov, Viktor Korepanov and Konstantin Konovalov from the Sverdlovsk region, Sergey Kazankov from the Samara region, Aleksandr Belikin from the Volgograd region, Dmitry Zagaynov from the Kirov region and Vladimir Veselkov from the Zabaykalsky region [Russia's federal subject].

The Permanent Representative of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea reports that the number of buried soldiers of the Russian Armed Forces in annexed Crimea has increased to 745 people. The Krym.Realii [part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty] online media outlet has identified 660 names of Russian soldiers from Crimea and Sevastopol who have been killed in the war.

As per early information, a participant in the war with Ukraine has committed suicide near the monument to "Law Enforcement Soldiers" in the center of Chelyabinsk. The deceased was reportedly 65 years old, but further details of the incident have not been disclosed.

Sentences, Legal Proceedings and Incidents

In the Omsk region, military serviceman Sergey Merkushev has been sentenced to two years in a penal colony for firing a rifle in Omsk. He was found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm through negligence and hooliganism with the use of a weapon.

In the Rostov region, a local resident named Viktor Khaitov has been found guilty of a series of crimes after receiving a pardon. Prior to this, Khaitov had been convicted 11 times but had remained free as a mercenary of the Wagner Group.

The Moscow Regional Court has sentenced 21-year-old Kirill Kusakin, a resident of Naro-Fominsk, to 12 years in prison for sabotage. In April 2023, he was convicted of setting fire to a relay cabinet on the railway in the Naro-Fominsk area.

The Federal Security Service (FSB) has reported the detention of a female resident of Simferopol born in 1999 who allegedly intended to set fire to a relay cabinet on the railway with the aim of "disrupting military transportation." The court has ordered the woman to be held in custody for two months.

A 58-year-old Ukrainian native residing in the Kaliningrad region has been sentenced to six years in a penal colony for intended treason. Law enforcement officers believe he allegedly intended to cross the border with Ukraine from the territory of the Belgorod region and join the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. He was detained by law enforcement officers at the border.

The FSB has reported another detention of a Russian citizen who allegedly planned an explosion on the Trans-Siberian Railway in Tugulym, Sverdlovsk region, on the instructions of the Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate. According to the FSB, the 1962-born man "was recruited in Lviv, underwent sabotage training and was sent to Russia to blow up railway trains carrying cargo in military interests." A case of an attempted act of terror has been initiated, as well as a video of the detention has also been published.

In Nizhny Novgorod, the FSB has detained an unnamed local on suspicion of "collaborating with representatives of a foreign state." A criminal case has also been initiated against him under the charge of "public justification of terrorism."

A Russian citizen has been detained in Belgorod on suspicion of preparing to poison Russian military personnel. According to investigators, in January, 47-year-old Yuri Y. contacted representatives of the "Russian Volunteer Corps," joined their ranks, and began planning several acts of sabotage against military personnel. During the searches, an ampoule with an unknown liquid and an F-1 grenade were allegedly found on the detainee. On March 16, he was charged with illegal possession of explosive devices, preparation for sabotage, participation in a terrorist organization and preparing an act of terror.

A 17-year-old Arseny L., diagnosed with schizophrenia, has been detained in Krasnodar for taking a selfie in front of the draft office. According to Russian investigators, he allegedly intended to blow up the building. As ASTRA found out, on March 15, 2024, a criminal case was initiated against the young man for preparing to murder two or more people.