mobilization briefs
March 25

Mobilization in Russia for March 22-24, 2024 CIT Volunteer Summary

Crocus City Hall Terrorist Attack

The Crocus City Hall concert venue in the outskirts of Moscow was about to host a concert by the rock group Picnic on Friday March 22 when gunmen burst into the foyer just after 8:00 p.m. The terrorists proceeded into the auditorium shooting at the public from assault rifles before setting fire to the concert hall's premises. A flame took hold of the building destroying the auditorium almost entirely and causing the roof to collapse. The Vyorstka and the Ostorozhno Media news outlets have pieced together a timeline of the attack, while the international media project Meduza has traced the route the terrorists had taken inside the venue with footage obtained from survivors.

The latest official updates say that at least 137 people were killed, with 62 of the bodies already identified. At least 182 people were injured. Other sources suggest that the number of casualties may amount to 150. Russia’s Investigative Committee claimed to have seized two Kalashnikov assault rifles, four sets of combat ammunition and over 500 cartridges from the scene of the attack. It was not until Saturday afternoon in Moscow that Putin finally addressed the Russian public with his statement, declaring March 24 a day of national mourning.

The perpetrators managed to flee from the scene undisturbed, intentionally knocking down an 8-year-old boy with their car. The boy was rushed to intensive care in serious condition. Within hours after the incident, the terrorists were apprehended in the Bryansk region, 210 miles southwest of Moscow. Meduza in collaboration with volunteers from the GeoConfirmed project has geolocated footage of the arrest of one of the suspects, apparently taken near the village of Khatsun in the Bryansk region. It is reported that four terrorists were detained in that area.

Telegram channels with law enforcement connections published videos and photographs of the arrests and interrogations of four individuals suspected of the act of terror. According to a statement by Alexander Bortnikov, the director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), a total of 11 people have been detained in connection with the terror attack investigation. However, a source familiar with the operation, speaking to BBC News Russian, claimed that at least two of the attackers were killed—one in the auditorium where the attack took place and the other in the Bryansk region during their arrest. Following the arrests, propaganda channels began to release videos of the detainees' torture. A neo-Nazi, Yevgeny "TopaZ" Rasskazov, a former member of the Sabotage Assault Reconnaissance Group Rusich [an openly neo-Nazi Russian volunteer unit], posted a video showing an ear being cut off one of the terrorists. Rasskazov stated he was ready to auction off the knife used by the law enforcement officer to perform the act. Meanwhile, the Grey Zone Telegram channel [connected to the Wagner Group] published photographs showing another detainee being tortured with electric shocks.

The FSB claims that the suspects in the terror attack were planning to flee to Ukraine through the Bryansk region. Officials in media outlets controlled by the government told Meduza that the Kremlin had instructed the media to emphasize a possible "Ukrainian connection" in reports on the act of terror at Crocus City Hall.

The Islamic State, through an agency close to the terrorists known as Amaq, issued a statement wherein it claimed responsibility for the act of terror, describing it as "fiercest attack in years." According to the statement, on March 22, IS-KP militants "launched a coordinated attack on a crowd of Christians." However, orientalist Ruslan Suleimanov pointed out that anyone could speak on behalf of IS-KP in media resources, making it impossible to verify such messages.

Later, Amaq released a video filmed by one of the militants during the act of terror. In the video, the attackers are seen shooting from assault rifles, and one of them is shown cutting the throat of a man lying on the floor with a knife. Novaya Gazeta Europe [European edition of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta] translated the Arabic subtitles accompanying the recording, while Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, independent Russian investigative media outlet] noted that the clothing of the militants in the video is identical to that of men detained in connection with the terrorist attack case. Journalists from the publication believe that the mastermind behind the terrorist attack at the Crocus City Hall could be a Russian national named Abdullo Buriev. He was previously on the radar of Turkish intelligence services as a handler for the Afghan branch of ISIS (IS-KP).

Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet] notes that the act of terror at Crocus City Hall occurred against the backdrop of a record number of criminal cases related to terrorism. According to the publication, in 2023 alone, 134 cases were brought to court under the main article on acts of terror, which is three times more than the previous year. Moreover, a significant portion of these cases are linked to the invasion of Ukraine. Vyorstka draws attention to the record spending by authorities on security. Moscow allocated 106 billion rubles [$1 billion] for these purposes, while the Moscow region allocated 14.7 billion rubles [$160 million]. However, as noted, law enforcement officers arrived at the scene of the tragedy with a delay, and the special forces began storming the building only 1.5 hours after the terrorist attack, when the attackers had long since left the crime scene. According to the VChK-OGPU Telegram channel, the building of Crocus City Hall houses a police department for the Pavshino microdistrict. According to sources, at the time of the terrorist attack, the department was fully staffed with armed officers, but they "fled to save themselves." However, according to reports, local residents regularly complained about problems associated with this police department.

Vladimir Vasilyev, leader of the United Russia party [Putin's ruling party] faction in the State Duma, has promised to address the issue of the death penalty. Officials and propagandists have also spoken out in support of lifting the moratorium on the death penalty, including Deputy Chairman of Russia's Security Council Dmitry Medvedev and A Just Russia party leader Sergey Mironov. However, Senator Andrey Klishas stated that the Russian parliament "cannot overcome the decisions of the Constitutional Court regarding the death penalty."

In addition, Crocus City Hall hosted a dance competition during the terrorist attack. The competition was not suspended despite the sounds of gunfire and the presence of children competitors. It was only after videos of the shooting circulated on social media that people began to evacuate en masse.

Across Russia and around the world, floral tributes are being laid in memory of those who were killed in the act of terror. However, it was reported that public sector employees were required to lay flowers and were closely supervised by their managers.

The frequency of xenophobic acts increased in the wake of the Moscow concert hall massacre. On March 24, Oleg Imameyev, Mayor of Blagoveshchensk [a city in the Amur region], wrote that a kiosk had been set on fire "on ethnic grounds" after the terrorist attack. Internet users are also sharing screenshots of conversations in ride-sharing apps where they ask to cancel the order if the driver is of Tajik origin. Meanwhile, shopping malls operators in Yekaterinburg are demanding that tenants submit lists of employees from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. For their part, law enforcement officers across the country have been carrying out numerous roundups in order to check migrants. Against this backdrop, the upcoming "Talking About Important Things" [a compulsory lesson held every Monday in schools across the country] will shift its focus from the planned discussion of health issues to emphasize the "unity of the peoples of Russia."

Authorities and Legislation

Putin has signed two related bills into law, which regulate the conditions under which mobilized and enlisted participants of the war against Ukraine can be exempted from criminal prosecution and punishment. Additionally, he has signed another bill into law, which establishes a Cossack mobilization reserve.

The commission on legislative activity of the federal government has endorsed a bill that would allow authorities to send teenagers aged 16 or younger, who commit two or more misdemeanors within a year, to special detention centers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for up to 45 days. Observers have pointed out that the NKVD [the law enforcement agency of the Soviet Union known for political repression] applied a similar measure to minors from 1935 onwards.

Mobilized Soldiers, Volunteer Fighters and Contract Soldiers

The list of mobilized soldiers killed in the war is updated to include Dmitry Gorin from the Perm region [Russia’s federal subject], Yevgeny Kolesnikov and Sergey Kondratenko from the Sverdlovsk region, as well as Vadim Matvienko from the Krasnodar region.

At least 685 servicemen from the Belgorod region have been killed since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with an additional 41 reported missing in action. Furthermore, 131 civilians in this region have also lost their lives.

In France, the National Court of the Right of Asylum (CNDA) has granted asylum to 19 Russian citizens. On Feb. 26, 2024, CNDA set a precedent by granting asylum to a Russian citizen who fled the country after receiving a draft notice during mobilization, which has also established key criteria for eligibility: firstly, the risk of mobilization must be real, and the applicant must confirm the attempt to draft him with documents; secondly, merely being in reserve or undergoing training at a university's military department is not sufficient grounds for granting asylum.

Sentences, Legal Proceedings and Incidents

Two members of the Tsapok gang were reportedly pardoned for their participation in the war in Ukraine. According to 161.RU [Rostov-on-Don city online media outlet], Vyacheslav Ryabtsev and Andrey Bykov, who had been sentenced to 20 years for the murder of 12 people, including four children, in the village of Kushchevskaya in the Krasnodar region on Nov. 5, 2010, were pardoned. Journalists report that Bykov and Ryabtsev joined the Wagner Group. Ryabtsev "is already free, married and living in one of the cities in the Krasnodar region." Bykov was wounded and is being treated in the "Luhansk People's Republic." Another gang member, Stanislav Lobyanov, is believed to have been killed in Ukraine also as part of the Wagner Group.

An evacuation was announced at a shopping center in Vladivostok after men with assault rifles, bulletproof vests and dummy grenades were spotted in a car in a parking lot. Upon arrival, Rosgvardia [the Russian National Guard] fighters detained the suspicious individuals. It was later revealed that one of them is a 39-year-old "veteran of the special military operation," and the Kalashnikov assault rifle is part of the props used for "patriotic classes" in schools.

According to the prosecutor's office, the cause of the explosion in an apartment in a residential building in Vladivostok was explosives illegally stored by a local resident.

The Southern District Military Court denied Sergeant Robert Bagatyrov's request for discharge from service. The soldier has been trying to leave the army, citing his prolonged deployment at the frontline for over nine months, injuries sustained during service, and the responsibility of caring for his child with disabilities. Despite the expiration of his contract, Bagatyrov was retained in the army due to the mobilization decree.

According to Mediazona, participants in the January protests in Baymak have been accused of "armed resistance" against law enforcement officers during mass unrest. The Investigative Committee alleges that wooden sticks, chunks of snow and stones were used in the clash. Mediazona has reviewed the available materials, shedding light on how investigators interpret the January events in Bashkortostan [Russia's constituent republic]. It has also been revealed that the defendants of the "Baymak case," Aitugan Kitikov and Dim Bulyakbayev, have been presented with new charges relating to the use of violence against a government representative. Furthermore, the court has placed Rayan Fattakhov under arrest on allegations of organizing and participating in mass unrest, and committing acts of violence against a government official.

Murmansk-based activist Marina- Victoria Nagornykh has been released after being arrested three times for mentioning Alexei Navalny. Meanwhile, a court in the Yamalo-Nenets autonomous region [Russia's federal subject] has fined local resident Gazrat Zulmanov 1,000 rubles [$11] for nocturnal shouts about Navalny, which were interpreted as public displays of banned symbols.

A court in Labytnangi has discontinued proceedings on a claim filed by Lyudmila Navalnaya, Alexei Navalny's mother, against the penal colony in the Yamalo-Nenets autonomous region and the Federal Penitentiary Service for allegedly failing to adequately provide medical assistance to her son. According to the court statement, the plaintiff in such a case could only be Alexei Navalny himself. The politician's widow Yulia believes that the reason for this decision is straightforward: "In court, they would be obliged to provide documents and videos about the events of Feb. 16."

The Federal Penitentiary Service in Adygea [Russia’s constituent republic], is obstructing the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs from contacting Kevin Lik, a student convicted of high treason. Earlier, the embassy attempted to arrange a meeting with Lik to provide him with maximum possible support.

In Saint Petersburg's Primorsky district, employees of the draft office pushed a human rights activist down a staircase. He filed a criminal complaint with the prosecutor's office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Investigative Committee.


In 11 regions of Russia, an event called "The Day of Charitable Haircuts" is set to take place, where the homeless, residents of psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, shelters and veterans of the war in Ukraine can receive free haircuts.


"Veterans of the special military operation" have awarded Sergey Mikhailov, a criminal kingpin and the leader of the Solntsevskaya organized crime group, with the "Hero of Humanitarian Mission" medal. Mikhailov himself shared this information on his website, as noted by journalist Andrey Malgin.

In Voronezh, parents of schoolchildren have been asked to contribute to the installation of blast-resistant film on school windows.