mobilization briefs
May 16, 2023

Mobilization in Russia for May 14–15, 2023 CIT volunteer summary

Authorities and Legislation

Vladimir Putin signed a decree, which grants foreigners the right to apply for Russian citizenship, when they sign a yearlong military service contract with the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. This right extends to their close relatives as well. According to an earlier version of the decree, published in fall of last year, foreigners needed to take part in combat operations for at least 6 months, in addition to signing a contract for at least a year, in order to apply for citizenship under a simplified procedure. The requirement to participate in combat operations has now been dropped.

During a town hall meeting in Petrozavodsk, Karelia [constituent republic of Russia], military commissar Andrey Artemyev called for more efforts to advertise contract-based service. He also threatened to rescind all draft deferral certificates issued earlier. In his speech, Artemyev indicated that the city had only mustered 100 contract soldiers, but 800 needed to enroll this year. It should be noted that the city population is 230,000 people.

State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] member Viktor Sobolev called the Wagner Group an illegal armed group. He added that servicemen would face a 10 to 15-years prison sentence if they deserted their units to join the mercenaries. The comment came after the publication of 2 videos (1, 2), where people in military fatigues, claiming to be mobilized soldiers from the Ulyanovsk region, expressed their desire to join the Wagner Group.

On May 15, the International Conscientious Objectors Day is observed. The Voyennye Advokaty [Military Lawyers] project published a guide on how a citizen can go through alternative service in lieu of real service even during mobilization and defend his right not to go to war without violating Russian legislation.

The State Duma Committee on State Building and Legislation supported the amendments to the bill on martial law. Elections can now be held in the annexed territories. In addition, a paragraph has been added to the text of the bill on the possibility of "forced and controlled movement of citizens from the territory where martial law was introduced to the territory where it was not introduced."

Army Recruitment and Military Service Advertising

Posters advertising contract military service were spotted in Pushkin district of Saint Petersburg. Huge billboards appeared on the district administration building, a polyclinic, as well as on the youth and cultural centers. Contract service ads were also posted in the social media accounts of kindergartens. In addition, according to the Saint Petersburg-based Rotonda media outlet, a robot calls the residents of the district and invites them to the district administration to discuss contract service. In the meantime, graffiti advertising the Wagner Group was seen on a garage in the Yaroslavl region.

Mobilized Soldiers and Volunteer Fighters

The lists of those killed in the war were updated with the names of Sergey Kornev from the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region and Anton Shchepetkov from the Vladimir region.

Russian authorities and the Ministry of Defense do not provide information about the number of Russians killed in the war with Ukraine. Some media outlets try to independently calculate the number of losses. Journalists and activists from different regions compile their own lists of deceased compatriots. In their search for names, they subscribe to local newspapers, send volunteers to cemeteries, and ask readers to send obituaries. The 7x7 online outlet reports on why they do this and how the audience reacts.

According to calculations by the authors of the Demografiya Upala [Demography has fallen] Telegram channel, only confirmed deaths of Russians aged 20 to 24 in the war account for one-third of all deaths among Russian men in 2022, according to Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet]. Adding unrecorded deaths will double the number, and change the proportion of war deaths in this age group to approximately half of all deaths. Thus, half of the men aged 20–24 who died in Russia last year died in the war.

Alexey Bessudnov, a researcher on ethnic inequality, released a preprint of his work on whether there is ethnic discrimination in the recruitment of Russians for the war (based on available data on war mortality). Conclusion: no one intentionally selects ethnic minorities for their destruction in the war. The main factors of increased risk of participation in the war and death are socio-economic ones.

The Ministry of Defense continues to recruit convicts for participation in combat operations in Ukraine. Convicts from three penal colonies have been recruited in Tyumen, 72.RU [Tyumen city online media outlet] reports, citing sources in the penitentiary system and the Federal Penitentiary Service. The report mentioned several dozen convicts from Tyumen's IK-1 and IK-4 penal colonies, as well as penal colony No. 6 in Ishim, Tyumen region.

Concurrently, it became known that a convict from the Shtorm Z [Storm Z] unit, earlier found guilty of murdering two people, was buried in the Irkutsk region. The Storm Z unit is an assault detachment formed by the Russian Ministry of Defense. The department has published several videos showing how such units are trained.

A mobilized lifeguard from the town of Kungur will return home. The man was initially denied a deferral from military service. Then he appealed to the court, pointing out that he is a father to three minor children and is raising his wife's fourth minor child. The man also works as a lifeguard in a search and rescue service, which grants a deferment from the draft. According to the Perm Regional Court, the refusal to grant the man a deferral was illegal; he must now be dismissed from military service and return home as soon as possible.

Vyacheslav Demyanov from the city of Yelabuga, Tatarstan [Russia’s constituent republic], a draftee and a father of five, cannot return home from the combat zone. According to the prosecutor's office and the republican military commissar, "there are no legal grounds for dismissal from military service." Three of Vyacheslav's children are not related to him by blood. He brought them up and supported them, but he was not officially a father of five children, thus, he does not have a deferral from the draft.

Cossacks from the Volgograd region, even before the "partial" mobilization was launched, volunteered to join the "special military operation." However, they are still serving on the frontline after the three-month period prescribed by their contracts has expired. Moreover, they are paid 15,000 rubles [USD 190] a month instead of the 200,000 rubles [USD 2500] that draftees and contract servicemen receive.

Sentences, Legal Proceedings, and Incidents

The suspect in the arson of a Sukhoi Su-24 bomber in Novosibirsk has been arrested until Jul. 12. His name is Viktor Skorobogatov. He is charged with "arson for the purpose of undermining the economic security and (or) defense capability of the Russian Federation," which is classified as sabotage. The investigation believes that Skorobogatov acted not alone, but in conspiracy with a group of individuals.

Three minors have been detained for setting fire to a relay cabinet in the Novosibirsk region, which occurred late in the evening on Apr. 23 near the Inskaya station. One of the suspects is likely to be remanded in custody for two months.

In Saint Petersburg, a first-year student of a military university was detained for attempting to set fire to a relay cabinet on the railway. The young man claimed that he allegedly received this assignment from unknown individuals through a messenger, and he was promised to be paid about 15,000 rubles for the arson.

From Jan. 1 to May 12, at least 57 attempts of sabotage occurred on railway tracks, energy facilities, and military objects in Russia, including annexed Crimea. Almost 25% of these attempts took place within the 13 days of May, according to calculations by Vyorstka media outlet.

In Klimovsk, Moscow region, a power line pylon was mined, according to law enforcement agencies reported by TASS news agency. According to the 112 Telegram channel, a box with underground wires was found near the pylon. However, the pro-Kremlin media outlet Mash claims that the bomb version has not been confirmed.

In Komi [Russia's constituent republic], a suspect in the arson of an FSB [The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation] building was detained. Yevgeniy Zabolotny is suspected of throwing a Molotov cocktail at an FSB office in Usinsk on the night of May 11, after which he fled. As a result of the incident, a window frame caught fire. The fire area was 1.5 square meters. A criminal case against Zabolotniy was initiated under the "terrorist act" article.

On May 14, railroad station employees found 62 firearm cartridges on the Privokzalnaya Square in Arzamas. As it turned out, a UAV operator and an employee of the Rosgvardia [the National Guard of Russia], Nikolay N, accidentally dropped them. The man was leaving by train for the "special military operation" zone but left his passport at home. While trying to catch up with the train, he dropped the ammo as, in a hurry, he was disembarking from a service vehicle, in which he got a ride to the Arzamas station.

A soldier who avoided mobilization in the Pskov region caused a fatal accident. During the mobilization period, the man abstained from reporting for duty. In Jan. 2023, in the city of Ostrov, he was behind a steering wheel while drunk and crashed into a tree at night. His passenger died in a hospital. The Pskov Garrison Military Court found the man guilty of going AWOL and causing a fatal accident. He was sentenced to eight years in prison for all crimes committed.

A soldier from Ingushetia [Russia's constituent republic] was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for half a year in AWOL during mobilization. On May 14, 2022, the man did not report for duty at the unit in Ingushetia, and on Nov. 23, he voluntarily appeared before the investigators. He pleaded not guilty to service evasion. After the verdict, the authorities took him into custody. The man will be placed in a penal colony.

The Yekaterinburg Garrison Military Court has sentenced contract soldier Nikita Kozlov to two years in a penal colony for deserting his unit during mobilization.

In Nalchik, contract soldier Konstantin Trifonov was arrested for "moral unpreparedness" to go to war in Ukraine. The garrison military court found him guilty of a disciplinary offense and imposed a 25-day disciplinary arrest. Trifonov had signed the commander's order for deployment but refused to go to war on the parade ground in the presence of his fellow soldiers, citing "unwillingness to perform combat tasks."

Contract soldier Vyacheslav Pikalov, who had been involved in combat operations in Ukraine since the early days of the war and returned from a "business trip" in June 2022, has been convicted for refusing to return to the front. On Oct. 2, 2022, during the morning assembly, the unit commander issued an order for deployment to war. Pikalov and several other soldiers publicly refused to obey the order. The contract soldier has been sentenced to two years in a settlement colony for disobeying orders during an armed conflict.

A man convicted of shooting a banner advertising military service claims torture in pre-trial detention and prison hospital. The man stated that the Federal Penitentiary Service staff tried to force him to confess to arson of the draft board. He refused and on the way to the cell, he "fell and broke his face." Human rights activists reported that law enforcement officers handcuffed the prisoner's hands and feet and forced him to stand in the "swallow" stand scale.


The members of the Legislative Assembly of the Irkutsk region proposed to introduce payments of 200,000 rubles to participants of "special military operation" who perform combat missions as part of so-called "private military companies." Currently, mobilized and contracted soldiers receive such payments. Despite the fact that mercenary armies in Russia are illegal, they decided to introduce such a measure, relying on Putin's statement that all military personnel who fulfill their duty to the homeland must have equal rights. On May 17, the bill will be considered by the regional parliament in the first reading.

The Russian government has introduced a new measure to support participants of the "special military operation." The participants and their families will be able to learn a new profession for free, and employers will receive subsidies for their employment. Relatives of the deceased soldiers will also be able to benefit from this initiative.

The government of the Vladimir region reported on the sending of another batch of aid to the military, which included building materials, a diesel generator, and a UAZ car. Meanwhile in the Irkutsk region, a kindergarten collected food, hygiene items, and children's drawings for the front.


Governor of the Irkutsk region Igor Kobzev talked about the children's Victory Day parade held on May 9 in the Chunsky district, which brought together 2,000 schoolchildren and kindergarten children.

In a school in Rostov, a United Russia party [Putin’s ruling party] member, who fought in Ukraine, solemnly opened a "Hero's Desk" in honor of himself. Maxim Gelas fought in the infantry in the so-called LPR for three months. In December, he went back home and returned to his work as a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Rostov region.

The director of the Department of Education resigned after the scandal in Pervouralsk. Irina Gilmanova held her post for four years, but after an Immortal Regiment school rally, during which several fourth-graders fainted, and one of them broke his face, tore his tongue, and knocked out a tooth, she quit. According to the E1.RU news portal, she was asked to leave precisely because of this incident.


The press service of Sberbank [Russia's largest consumer bank] told the Kommersant newspaper about receiving emails with virus infected mobilization orders. According to Stanislav Kuznetsov, the Deputy Chairman of the bank's Executive Board, the cyber attack was successfully repelled.

The support group of Yegor Balazeikin, a student from Saint Petersburg who is accused of attempting a terrorist attack because of an attempt to set fire to a draft office, has published his letter. In it, Yegor talks about the detention center, the judge's indifference, and readiness for the worst.

According to the Pro Gorod Vladimir [About the city of Vladimir] portal, visitors in military uniforms with the letter Z on their clothes were not allowed into a  restaurant in Vladimir. In a comment to the portal, they stated that the restaurant is a "hotbed of opponents of the special military operation."