mobilization briefs
March 8

Mobilization in Russia for March 5-7, 2024 CIT Volunteer Summary

Alexei Navalny’s Death

Mediazona [an independent Russian media outlet] estimated that at least 27,000 people bid farewell to Alexei Navalny over three days. On March 1-3, according to data from the Moscow Metro, 27,000 more people entered the Borisovo metro station than usual. This is a minimum estimate, including only those who took the metro after visiting the cemetery, without accounting for those who used other stations, arrived by surface public transport or by car, and those who came on foot. Additionally, researcher Aleksandra Arkhipova and psychologist Yury Lapshin calculated that from Feb. 16 to March 3, Russians created at least 502 memorials to Alexei Navalny. The politician was remembered not only in major cities but also in small towns.

On March 6, the court sentenced Elena Gribkova, a participant in Navalny's funeral who was detained based on video surveillance data after the event, to seven days of arrest. The court found Gribkova guilty of charges related to participating in an action that impeded pedestrian traffic. The following day, the court, at the appellate hearing, released Gribkova from arrest, taking into account her necessity to care for her disabled father. Two other participants in the funeral, who were also detained based on video surveillance, were fined.

An activist from the city of Murmansk, Victoria Nagornykh, was detained upon leaving a temporary detention facility after serving seven days of administrative arrest. The court re-arrested Nagornykh for seven days for disseminating extremist symbols, specifically for displaying photos of Alexei Navalny. Additionally, the first protocol was drawn up due to Navalny’s surname on a poster.

Authorities and Legislation

Lawmakers have introduced two related bills into the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] to regulate the conditions under which mobilized and enlisted participants of the war against Ukraine can be exempted from criminal prosecution and punishment. The bills were authored by State Duma members Pavel Krasheninnikov and Andrey Kartapolov, along with Senator Andrey Klishas. As noted by the Voyennye Advokaty [Military Lawyers] Telegram channel, the first bill aims to repeal the law on "the specifics of criminal liability of persons participating in the special military operation," which was enacted in summer 2023. This law allowed for the exemption of defendants and convicts from criminal prosecution and punishment, respectively, in exchange for military service. The second bill seeks to reintroduce the legal basis for suspending criminal investigations and releasing convicts on probation into the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. Since the fall of 2023, release on probation has been the mechanism used by authorities to recruit convicts into the Storm-V units, which replaced the Storm-Z units, whose members were pardoned after six months of service. The proposed legislation would introduce articles 78(1) and 80(2) to the Criminal Code, detailing the release on probation procedure. Under the new bill, authorities would definitively exempt convicts from criminal liability and expunge their criminal record if they receive a state award, reach the military service age limit, become unfit for duty, or survive until the end of mobilization. The bill would apply to individuals convicted after June 24, 2023. According to legal experts interviewed by the Agentstvo.Novosti [Agency News] Telegram channel, the new bill "completely destroys the parole institution" and incites people to commit crimes.

The Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media proposes changing the accreditation rules for IT companies that offer a deferral from conscription and mobilization. The department intends to grant state accreditation only to companies with less than 50% foreign participation in their charter capital. It also plans to abolish the criterion for checking the share of income from IT-related activities for small technology companies and to cancel such checks for companies in occupied territories.

The government announced that from April 1, 2024, social pensions will be indexed by 7.5%. This type of payment is awarded to citizens who lack sufficient working experience to qualify for an insurance pension, as well as to those who are disabled or have lost a breadwinner. Additionally, the indexation will apply to pensions "for certain categories of citizens," including participants in the invasion of Ukraine who have incurred disabilities due to military injuries.

Army Recruitment and Military Service Advertising

Seven Indian citizens released a video address claiming they are being forced to fight in Ukraine on the Russian side. The men recounted that they arrived in Russia to celebrate the New Year of 2024 and subsequently accepted a tour agent’s offer to visit Belarus. In Belarus, they were detained by police and transferred to Russian authorities, who "forced them to sign documents" in Russian language. Allegedly, they were threatened with a 10-year prison sentence as an alternative to serving in the Russian army. Following the signing of the contracts, they underwent 15 days of military training before being dispatched to the frontline. The Indian embassy later reported the death of an Indian citizen, without detailing the circumstances. Earlier, India had urged Russia to permit its citizens, who had signed contracts with the Ministry of Defense, to leave military service, leading to the demobilization of several Indian citizens from the Russian army.

Law enforcement officers across the country continue to round up migrants. Another such raid was carried out at the Wildberries warehouse in Yekaterinburg. Of the 267 employees present, more than 30 individuals, who had recently received Russian citizenship, were requested to register with the draft office. According to the SHOT Telegram channel, about 600 recent citizens have been registered with the draft office in Yekaterinburg in the last three months alone, and more than 180 foreigners have signed military contracts. Another roundup took place at construction sites in Kazan, where 39 people were registered with the draft office as a result.

The Yaroslavl regional authorities have increased the sign-up bonus to 505,000 rubles [$5,570].

In 2020, Aleksey Abramov, a former prosecutor from Komi [Russia's constituent republic], ran over 20-year-old student Stepan Sonin at a pedestrian crossing, leaving the student disabled. Abramov was intoxicated while driving. He was sentenced to four and a half years in prison and ordered to pay 830,000 rubles [$9,150] in compensation to Sonin. However, to avoid paying this compensation, the ex-prosecutor signed a contract with the Ministry of Defense and went to war. He served less than a month, was wounded, and subsequently released. Abramov also received 2,450,000 rubles [$27,000] for his service. After Abramov returned from the war, Sonin attempted to collect his compensation through court, but the money that Abramov was paid for his war injury cannot legally be claimed from him in a criminal case.

Vladimir Zakharov, the deputy head of the administration of Kirovsky district of Saint Petersburg in charge of housing and utilities, has announced his intention to join the war in Ukraine. According to Fontanka [pro-Russian media outlet of the Leningrad region], Zakharov's decision may be related to the increased attention of law enforcement officers.

Mobilized Soldiers, Volunteer Fighters and Contract Soldiers

The list of mobilized soldiers killed in the war has been updated to include Andrey Vyatkin, Sergey Kondratovich and Sergey Aitbakov from the Sverdlovsk region, Andrey Masharovskiy from the Primorsky region [Russia's federal subject] and Nikolay Sevostyanov from Russia's constituent republic of Buryatia.

A former Wagner Group mercenary who lost his toes due to frostbite on the frontline, has recorded a video address to Putin. In the address, he complained that he was denied payments, and that all his appeals were redirected to the Ministry of Defense, which then advised him to contact the Wagner Group. Allegedly, the former mercenary is not entitled to the state payments because he received disability due to frostbite and not a combat injury.

A serviceman of the Akhmat volunteer unit complained about his unlawful dismissal from service after being wounded. 25-year-old Oleg, who had worked in the police, signed a contract with Akhmat following the start of the invasion and went to war. Two months later, he suffered serious injuries and underwent several surgeries. Upon returning home, he discovered that his combat and daily allowances hadn’t been paid. However, when he arrived at his unit, he was informed that he had been discharged upon the termination of his contract. Despite reaching out to various departments, the soldier received neither assistance nor the payments he was entitled to under the contract.

Sentences, Legal Proceedings and Incidents

In the Kursk region, Sergey Kretov, a 29-year-old serviceman, has been detained on suspicion of committing indecent acts against schoolgirls. A criminal case has been initiated against him.

A resident of Novosibirsk accused a participant in the "special military operation" of beating her 10-year-old son with a stick. The woman wanted her son to enter a military school, so she sent him to the Alpha military-sports center led by Warrant Officer Danil Shargan. In early March, when the mother picked up her son, she found him with a battered head. He reported that the warrant officer had beaten him on the head with a stick for not obeying orders. The prosecutor's office has begun an investigation into the incident.

In Cherepovets, a court has handed down an eight-year prison sentence to Aleksey Kochin, who had been pardoned by the president for his involvement in the war as a member of the Wagner Group. Kochin was convicted of deliberately causing grievous bodily harm resulting in death, a charge for which he had been previously convicted twice.

In another case, a resident of Chelyabinsk brutally assaulted his ex-wife but escaped with a fine. The woman managed to initiate a criminal case against her ex-husband for causing moderate bodily harm intentionally. However, a magistrate court imposed a fine of 5000 rubles ($55) on him, exempting him from criminal liability. The man brought medals from the Wagner Group and letters of gratitude from mercenaries to court as evidence.

In Taganrog, Denis Malygin, a participant in the war in Ukraine, received a one-year probation sentence for snatching a woman's handbag. It is known that Malygin had been convicted at least three times and joined the Wagner Group while in prison. Notably, his previous convictions were not mentioned in the verdict, indicating that Malygin might have received a presidential pardon.

In the Vladimir region, a court hassuspended criminal proceedings against Sergey Trifonov, the deputy head of the police department in the Suzdal district, after he signed a contract with the Ministry of Defense and went to war. Initially, he was accused of leaving the scene of a road accident that resulted in grievous bodily harm to a person.

The Magnitogorsk Garrison Military Court has sentenced a mobilized soldier, who went AWOL three times, to seven years in a penal colony.

The Borzya Garrison Military Court has sentenced soldier Pyotr Baranov to six years in a penal colony for going AWOL. According to the court, Baranov went AWOL on July 24, 2022. On April 27, 2023, upon learning that he was under investigation, Baranov appeared at the military investigation department.

A court in Vladimir has fined Senior Warrant Officer Dmitry Yashin 550,000 rubles [$6,060] on seven counts of receiving bribes and committing fraud. Yashin had taken money from his military subordinates in exchange for favorable appointments.

The court in Chita, Zabaykalsky region [Russia's federal subject], sentenced Sergey Lovchikov, a local resident, to 11 years in a maximum security penal colony on charges of an act of terror for the attempted arson of a draft office. Under the influence of alcohol, he threw a Molotov cocktail at the draft office, but the building would not burn.

In Karelia [Russia’s constituent republic], Federal Security Service (FSB) agents shot dead Nikolay Alexeyev, a citizen of Belarus suspected of planning an act of terror. According to the Russian investigators, he allegedly planned to detonate a bomb at the administration building in the town of Olonets, Karelia.

Yury Kolganov, a 31-year-old local construction worker, has been detained in Ivanovo. He allegedly transferred approximately 3000 rubles [$33] to the "Freedom of Russia Legion" through a cryptocurrency exchange. Kolganov faces charges for high treason.

Children and Educational System

Novosibirsk resident Nikita Semyanov, who has a previous criminal record, has returned from the war and is now participating in meetings with children at schools in the city. Semyanov was sentenced to nine years in prison for murder in 2021 but received a presidential pardon in 2023, not having served even half of his term for his participation in the war.

Throughout February 2024, in hundreds of Russian educational institutions in at least 40 regions, meetings were held with participants of the invasion, as counted by BBC News Russian. "Lessons of courage" were conducted by active military personnel, mercenaries who served in the Wagner Group, and mobilized individuals.

Armed personnel of the Rosgvardia [Russian National Guard] arrived at a school in Belgorod on an APC to congratulate female students on International Women's Day.