mobilization briefs
May 4, 2023

Mobilization in Russia for May 2–3, 2023 CIT volunteer summary

Authorities and Legislation

Meduza [international Russian-language online media outlet] explores how the law on digital draft notices, passed urgently last month, may undermine Putin’s planned “record results” at the presidential elections in 2024, according to sources close to the Presidential Administration. The latter is allegedly counting on the online voting system to achieve these results. The system is, however, tied to the Gosuslugi public services portal, some users of which deleted their accounts after the introduction of digital draft notices. As a result, this may put a damper on online voter turnout, especially in case of resumption of mass mobilization.

The Kommersant newspaper reports that the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] is drafting a bill to restrict gender transition only to cases involving sex reassignment surgery, citing Nina Ostanina, who chairs the State Duma Committee on Family, Women and Children. Earlier, Minister of Justice Konstantin Chuychenko also called for a prohibition on changes to passport gender markers. Chairman of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin indicated that 2,700 such cases were recorded in Russia. The rationale for this restriction does not only stem from “traditional values”, but also from the opinion of some lawmakers that young men are thus dodging the draft. The bill is scheduled for consideration during the spring session.

The legislative assembly of the Perm region [Russia’s federal subject] is considering a bill, which would introduce fines for non-execution of decisions, taken by either the governor or the operations control center, which has been tasked with ensuring public order and improving public safety. If the bill passes, citizens could be fined between 1,000 and 3,000 rubles, officials between 10,000 and 20,000 rubles and legal entities between 20,000 and 50,000 rubles for failure to execute decisions, taken by either the governor or the operations control center.

Conscription and Military Service Advertising

Residents of Yugorsk in the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region [federal subject of Russia] received utility bills, on the reverse side of which an advertisement for a contracted service is placed.

The Sota Telegram channel, citing the Anti-raid Istra Telegram channel, reported that police officers are mass-checking military registration documents of those arriving at the Istra railway station. Men are strongly urged to get into a car where they are issued draft notices. Several people who did not have a draft deferment or military ID reportedly are going to be taken away in an unknown direction. Confirmation of this information from other sources has not yet been received.

Mobilized Soldiers and Volunteer Fighters

The lists of those mobilized soldiers killed in the war have been supplemented by Radzhab Abakarov and Aleksandr Oshin from the Rostov region, Leonid Shcheglovsky from the Omsk region, Maksim Melikhov, Nikolay Koshelets, and Sergey Gorbikov from the Volgograd region, Maksim Tverdokhleb from the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region, Yegor Markin from the Moscow region, Aleksey Tsaryov from the Tver region, Yevgeny Sirin from the Tyumen region, and Yevgeny Krasnoyarov from the Zabaykalsky region.

BBC News Russian has published an article on how the Ministry of Defense recruits prisoners in penal colonies. The fate of those sent to war through the Ministry of Defense remains unknown for a long time, and former prisoners cannot arrange payments for their relatives. In addition, recruitment takes place both on a voluntary and compulsory basis. Moreover, if earlier the Ministry of Defense employees only visited penal colonies for former law enforcement officers, now they recruit in all colonies throughout the country.

Due to the significant increase in criminal cases for absence without official leave, the Voyennye Advokaty [Military Lawyers] Telegram channel analyzed in detail what going AWOL is and what consequences it may lead to. Servicemen, including draftees, as well as reservists during their stay at military training camps, are liable for crimes against military service. Responsibility for going AWOL is ranked depending on the period of absence from 30 days of arrest to 10 years of imprisonment. The explanatory note to Article 337 of the Criminal Code does not directly provide for the possibility of exemption from criminal liability for going AWOL during the mobilization period in cases where the withdrawal from the unit was due to the combination of difficult circumstances. However, such circumstances can mitigate the sentence.

The Sever.Realii [part of the RFE/RL] media outlet released an interview with several servicemen who returned from Ukrainian captivity after prisoner swaps. Many of them do not mind returning to the front on their own, others are tied to the service by contracts that are valid until the end of the decree on mobilization. Several servicemen told reporters how their detention took place and why they would go to the front line again. It should be noted that since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, about two thousand servicemen have been exchanged.

Vice-speaker of the Novosibirsk City Council Yevgeny Lebedev stated on Jan. 30 that he joined the "special military operation". However, on Apr. 26, he attended a City Council session, where the Council voted to cancel the direct election of the city mayor by citizens. According to the council member, his "three-month volunteer mission is coming to an end."

Sentences and Incidents

Russian authorities continue to fight organizations that provide assistance to draft dodgers. The Savelovsky District Court of Moscow ruled to block the Dvizheniye soznatelnykh otkaznikov [Movement of Conscious Refuseniks] website. The lawsuit was filed by the 231st Military Prosecutor's Office of the capital's garrison. According to the experts who conducted the examination of the claim, the organization's website circulated information discrediting the Russian Armed Forces and justifying draft evasion. In the meantime, the department of the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) of Tatarstan recognized ads of the Medical and Legal Company from Omsk, which owns the website PrizyvaNet [No Conscription], as illegal. The company that offered assistance in establishing exemptions from conscription was fined in the amount of 100,000 rubles. The FAS believed that advertising undermined trust in military service.

The Bumaga [Paper] online media outlet compiled a chronicle of sabotages in the Leningrad region. Since the outbreak of the full-scale war in Ukraine there have been reports of attacks on government or war-related facilities almost every month in Saint Petersburg and the Leningrad region.

The Baza Telegram channel announced that an object resembling an explosive device had been detected on a power pylon in the Tver region. The security forces arrived at the scene and are currently investigating the situation. It is still unclear whether the object is explosive.

Today it was announced that six suspicious objects appearing to be explosive devices were revealed near a power transmission line in the Leningrad region, where on the night of May 1 one of the pillars had already been blown up. Later on, the regional administration denied having any information about this incident. However, in the evening, yet another report appeared on the website of the 78 regional TV channel, stating that well-informed sources confirmed the discovery of six explosive devices.

In the Krasnodar region, unidentified men attempted to set fire to a relay cabinet on the rail tracks. According to the ASTRA Telegram channel, on May 2, on the Agronom — Dinskaya railway stretch, workers discovered a relay cabinet showing signs of break-in and attempted arson. No arrest related to the incident has been made so far.

Aleksey Moskalyov's lawyer met with his client on May 3 in the pre-trial detention center in the city of Smolensk. Aleksey's whereabouts have remained unknown for over a month. According to Moskalyov, he had been brutally beaten while in detention in Belarus. Moskalev's lawyer also published his client’s letter to "all people who care."

46-year-old Igor Sandzhiev, a mobilized Russian citizen who sought political asylum in Kazakhstan, is facing deportation. The man fled his military unit twice — first to Belarus, where he was intercepted only to be brought back to the same unit, and then to Kazakhstan, where he asked for asylum. Sandzhiev was convicted of illegal entry after having been denied refugee status for the second time. In Russia, he will be facing up to 10 years in prison. In the event of a suspended sentence, he may end up being sent to the war again. Sandzhiev is going to appeal the deportation order. Another Russian citizen who had fled to avoid fighting in the war and had been deported from Kazakhstan, was sentenced in Russia to 6.5 years in a penal colony.

In the town of Berezniki in the Perm region, a man stole a box of donations intended for participants in the "special military operation" from the Kruzhka [Box] store . Police were not notified of the theft.

Assistance and Children

Meanwhile, in Omsk, at a city council meeting, Ildar Bikmaev, the director of the Youth Affairs Department, spoke about plans to reintroduce military training in elementary schools.

In one of the schools in Chita, teachers are allegedly forced to donate their one-day salary to support the needs of  the "special military operation" participants. However, the city's education committee assures that all employee donations are strictly voluntary.

The 7x7 independent media outlet shared a story told by a mother of a schoolgirl from Voronezh. The woman complained about the intrusive nature of patriotic education classes in the school, during one of which a teacher of Life Safety Fundamentals organized shooting at targets in the school basement. The teacher was not at all disturbed by the presence of a girl from Donbas who had spent six months in a basement under shelling. As a result, the child had a panic attack.

Journalists from The Insider [independent Russian investigative media outlet] discovered that in Saint Petersburg and the Leningrad region, organizations associated with neo-Nazis are conducting "courage lessons" and "weekend activities" for orphans, "troubled teenagers," and cadets. The Dobrovolets [Volunteer fighter] Center and the Severo-slavyanskaya obshchina [North Slavic Community] were found to be closely connected to the Rusich Russian neo-Nazi group and the Union of Donbas Volunteers. Fighters from these organizations have been fighting in Ukraine since 2014 and have repeatedly called for massacres against Ukrainian prisoners of war.

Russian media continues to raise questions about the future of soldiers who have already returned from the war in Ukraine and those who have yet to return. This time, the 7x7 media outlet published an article not about the crimes committed by soldiers upon returning to civilian life, but about how to help them and their families cope with psychological problems, what PTSD is, and what people feel when they return from war.

In the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region, a quota was introduced for the children of the “special military operation” participants applying to the universities of the region. 10% of the budget places will be allocated for them. To recap, earlier 100,000 ruble payments for children of participants of the “special military operation” upon admission were already introduced in this region.

A school student from Kazan wrote a book about the "heroism" of the participants of the "special military operation" from Tatarstan [Russia’s constituent republic]. The book of 12-year-old Amir Valliulov is called "Stronger than Father" and consists of 7 chapters. It tells the stories of seven servicemen from different towns of the republic, among whom some have already been killed in the war with Ukraine.

Victory Day

Regions continue to come up with alternatives to the canceled Immortal Regiment rally. Thus, in the Pskov region, editors of one of the local newspapers reported that portraits of dead relatives could be placed in the windows of a department store, and the Shaggy Regiment procession will be held in Kaliningrad in memory of killed cynologists.


On May 2, many users of the Gosuslugi public services portal received a mailout about the events that happened in Odesa on May 2, 2014. “This date is important for each of us,”  the mailout said. The incident is also addressed as  “Odesa’s Khatyn [a village in Belarus that was burned down with its inhabitants by German troops during WWII] in the fire of which a part of our Russian world was murdered.”