mobilization briefs
May 25

Mobilization in Russia for May 23-24, 2024 CIT Volunteer Summary

Army Recruitment and Military Service Advertising

The prison population in Russia has shrunk by 105,000 people in the two years since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine. The Yesli Byt Tochnym [To Be Precise] open data project drew this conclusion from an article published in the journal of the Federal Penitentiary Service. Only last year, the number of incarcerated convicts decreased by 58,000. According to the article, the prison population had plummeted to 249,600 by December 2023 (in October 2023, Deputy Minister of Justice Vsevolod Vukolov had estimated it at 266,000). Although this data is not sufficient to determine how much of the trend stems from recruitment of convicts, we do know that, when the Wagner Group began actively recruiting from penal colonies in 2022, the prison population shrank by 23,000 in just two months and by 32,000 in that year in total.

BBC News Russian has conducted an analysis of court cases and spoke with lawyers to understand how Russian law enforcement agencies pressure suspects and defendants into enlisting in exchange for the suspension of criminal proceedings. The journalists were able to identify 21 criminal cases in which the trial was suspended because the defendant was unable to attend and later terminated altogether after the defendant’s death. Moreover, the last six months saw an increasing number of cases where individuals, who had earlier received a suspended sentence, left for war. The BBC journalists found 160 such cases. Finally, their examination of court documents revealed that, if a defendant enlisted after the investigation is completed, their trial would be postponed, but the charges against them would not be dropped. These conditions differ significantly from those offered to convicts and pre-trial defendants upon conclusion of a military service contract.

In the city of Podolsk, Moscow region, police officers and military commissariat officials raided a hostel in search of men evading statutory military service. They checked the documents of 27 individuals and served a draft notice to one of them. Local officials warned that raids will continue until the end of the spring regular conscription campaign.

Former police officers Yevgeny Inkin and Dmitry Istomin, sentenced to 17 and 18 years for murder respectively, signed contracts with the Ministry of Defense and went to war a year after their conviction. Consequently, they were not present at the court session that upheld their sentences unchanged. The murder of two young women occurred 22 years ago, but the killers were only arrested in 2019.

Mobilized Soldiers, Volunteer Fighters and Contract Soldiers

The list of mobilized soldiers killed in the war has been updated to include Andrey Brekhuntsov from the Krasnodar region, Ernest Bulkonov from the Republic of North Ossetia–Alania [Russia's constituent republic], Vyacheslav Khayan from the Altai region [Russia’s federal subject], Aleksandr Bychkov from the Novgorod region, Konstantin Kryukov from the Krasnoyarsk region, and Aleksandr Nifontov from Buryatia [Russia's constituent republic].

Based on open sources, Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet] and BBC News Russian, together with volunteers, have verified the names of 54,185 Russian fighters killed in Ukraine, including 6,457 mobilized soldiers. Over the past week, the list has been updated with the names of 599 military personnel, including 16 mobilized men. In the current summary, journalists also refer to the count of civilian casualties conducted by the 7x7—Gorizontalnaya Rossiya [Horizontal Russia] news outlet, which reports the deaths of 238 civilians in Russia (excluding the occupied regions), with the majority in the Belgorod region.

In the Sverdlovsk region, 18-year-old Danila Ermolenko, a war participant born in 2006, was buried. According to Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet], he is the youngest known casualty. His funeral was held in the village of Verkhniy Bugalysh, with photos posted on the VKontakte social network by the district administration. He was not the first 18-year-old casualty of the war, but he was born later than the others, on Jan. 8. The young man served in an assault unit. On April 6, he went to the village of Berdychi for a combat mission and then all contact with him was lost.

According to the National Resistance Center of Ukraine, Russian authorities plan to recruit 2,700 residents of occupied Crimea to sign contracts with the Ministry of Defense.

In the Sverdlovsk region, authorities were unable to bury a soldier who died under strange circumstances for over three months. Oleg Smirnov volunteered for the war in September 2023 and lost contact on Dec. 25. In January, his family was informed that he had hanged himself, but they do not believe that version. A family member learned from a fellow soldier that Smirnov had a conflict in his unit with three other soldiers. A second autopsy failed to determine the cause of death. Investigators from the "DPR" are handling the case. Previously, two mobilized soldiers from the Irkutsk region, Viktor Petrov (1, 2) and Aleksandr Tirskikh, died under suspicious circumstances.

Sentences, Legal Proceedings and Incidents

In Pavlovsk, Voronezh region, a history teacher who fought in Ukraine was detained on charges of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old eighth-grade student from his school. The teacher was detained on May 23, and a case was opened under the article on "indecent acts." Local media report that these acts allegedly continued "throughout the school year: from September 2023 to May 2024." Mediazona has identified that the reference is likely to history teacher Ivan Fomenko from the Pavlovskaya School, who fought in Ukraine for about five months and was awarded the "For Bravery" medal. He himself recounted that he joined the war effort after the beginning of mobilization, but as a volunteer fighter, and returned from the war in February 2023. In October of the same year, he joined the school as a teacher.

In the Rostov region, a 25-year-old local resident, Ruslan Shingirey, was arrested on suspicion of murdering a second-grade girl. Shingirey turned out to be a participant in the war. Previously, the body of a schoolgirl with signs of strangulation was found in a tree line in the Aksai district. Shingirey was detained on May 18; he confessed to the murder and recounted that he had offered to give the girl a ride home before killing her in a deserted area. He was serving under a contract and went to war in 2022 but later terminated his contract and returned. How he managed to do so remains unknown; neighbors of Shingirey report that he fled from the army.

In Saint Petersburg, three men were detained and taken to a temporary detention center for beating a fellow soldier they had fought with in Ukraine. They stole over $11,000.

Aleksey Redkin, a Wagner Group mercenary from the Stavropol region with a long criminal record, was sentenced to two years on probation for stabbing a person. Upon returning home, Redkin discovered that his girlfriend was meeting another man. Redkin stabbed his opponent in the abdomen. Redkin's awards and his intention to continue participating in the war were considered mitigating factors in his sentencing. The verdict did not mention his previous convictions. However, the editorial team of the Kavkaz.Realii [Caucasus.Realities] media outlet found his several previous convictions, confirming that he had been pardoned by a secret decree from Putin.

The Magnitogorsk Garrison Military Court sentenced a resident of the Chelyabinsk region to two years in a penal colony for going AWOL even though his contract with the Ministry of Defense had expired. The man had a draft deferment for mobilization, but in November 2022, he signed a four-month contract. In July 2023, he went on leave and did not return to service, believing his contract had ended. The court noted that "during the mobilization period, the grounds for dismissal of servicemen from military service are limited, and dismissal upon contract expiration is not among them."

A court has sentenced a 24-year-old resident of Angarsk to 12 years in a maximum security penal colony on charges of state treason. According to the Federal Security Service (FSB), the man, an employee at a military-industrial complex enterprise, took photographs depicting the condition of an industrial facility and its products "on instructions from Ukrainian intelligence services."

In Russia’s constituent Republic of Tatarstan, mass searches were conducted in connection with a case involving the "positive assessment" of Ukrainian drone attacks on the Alabuga Special Economic Zone and the Taneco oil refinery.


In Yakutia {Russia's constituent republic of Sakha], deputies from the United Russia party [Putin’s ruling party] asked hunters to donate the ducks they shot to the families of those killed in the war. In Samara, three cars confiscated from their owners for drunk driving will be sent to the war. In Buryatia, Rosgvardia [the Russian National Guard] is accepting smooth bore firearms from the population to be transferred to the frontline to fight UAVs.

The Baikal volunteer center was opened in Ulan-Ude to help war participants. The center will weave camouflage nets and sew other gear. According to the volunteers, orders are coming in all the time, but there are few people willing to work.

The maximum age for enrolling in military academies for war participants has been increased from 27 to 30 years this year. Additionally, a quota of 10% of the total number of applicants has been allocated for them. Soldiers and junior commanders who received state awards during combat operations will receive an additional 10 points to their entrance ranking.

In the Primorsky region [Russia's federal subject], the military personnel awarded the title "Hero of Primorye" will receive a bonus for housing acquisition.

Children and Educational System

At the Last Bell ceremony [analogous to Leavers' Day] at a school in the village of Shablykino in the Oryol region, elementary school students have been made to carry portraits of living participants in the war with Ukraine. Additionally, at celebrations in the Tver and Krasnodar regions, "special military operation" veterans came to congratulate graduates. According to an analysis by the Agentstvo [Agency] independent media outlet, among the military personnel who attended the Last Bell ceremonies were individuals involved in criminal cases.

Danil Shargan, the head of the Alpha military-sports center, has been charged with the crime of torture of a minor. Previously, the mother of one of the students accused Shargan of assaulting her 10-year-old son during a "field exercise."


According to Aleksandr Sidyakin, the head of the central executive committee of the United Russia party, 103 participants in the war, or 3.2% of the total number of candidates, have registered for the United Russia primaries ahead of the September elections for regional parliaments. As a "bonus," they will be awarded an additional 25% of the votes they receive in the primaries. Overall, 210 participants in the invasion have registered for the September elections with the party. Meanwhile, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] Sholban Kara-ool stated that participants in the war from Tyva [Russia's constituent republic] were being forced to withdraw their candidacies from the United Russia primaries under the threat of being "blacklisted."

The Artek children's center will spend 97.8 million rubles [$1.07 million] on an anti drone system. The system is planned to be put into operation no later than Dec. 10.

The Agentstvo media outlet analyzed data from human rights activists about Russians sent to compulsory treatment by courts in politically motivated cases. If before 2020, up to three people per year were sent to psychiatric hospitals, then in 2021, the number rose to seven. In 2022, the figure returned to the previous level, but in 2023 there was a multiple increase to 25. And in the first four and a half months of 2024, eight decisions have already been made known. The OVD-Info independent human rights project links such a growth dynamic to the fact that in 2023, courts issued sentences for anti-war cases initiated in 2022.

The Vyorstka media outlet discovered that by the end of 2023, more than 466,000 Russians with disabilities were registered with the Social Insurance and Pension Fund, requiring the provision of wheelchairs, sanitation-equipped chair toilets, and lower limb prostheses. This indicator turned out to be a record for the entire time of keeping statistics since 2012. If from 2013 to 2022 the number of people requiring rehabilitation aids grew annually by no more than 7% and did not exceed 330,000, then in 2023 it increased by almost 42% (by more than 137,000 people).

Two videos by the Dozor [Watch] anti-war movement from Volgograd on how to avoid forced conscription into the army have been unblocked on YouTube.


The Insider [independent Russian investigative media outlet] released a large piece on how the Russian Army has changed over two years of full-scale invasion. The Cherta [Boundary] independent online media outlet discusses why ex-convicts returning from the war are committing crimes again and why military rehabilitation is necessary. Meanwhile, BBC News Russian has collected stories of several families where men returning from the war have raised their hands against children.

Russian soldiers who managed to desert and move to other countries, as well as members of the Idite Lesom! [Flee through the woods/Get lost you all] Telegram channel, which helps avoid military service, told the Insider what is needed for a successful escape.

The Govorit NeMoskva [NonMoscow Is Speaking] Telegram channel tells the story of Natalia Avdeeva from the Tomsk region. Her 62-year-old husband Vladimir Fogel went to fight in Ukraine and was killed after a month. Now the woman is trying to get his body.

Mediazona tells the story of Ilya Podkamenny from Irkutsk, who in October 2023 received 12 years in a colony for laying wire on the rails and scattering several leaflets.