Authorities in Saint Petersburg have turned down a request by the relatives of mobilized soldiers, who had applied for permission to hold a rally in Palace Square on Nov. 26 to demand their return from the war. The City Hall denied the application, which had been submitted on Nov. 19, under the pretext of the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. Earlier, authorities in Moscow, Krasnoyarsk and Chelyabinsk had banned similar rallies, citing the same restrictions. Nevertheless, the wives of mobilized soldiers intend to appeal the decision to ban the rally in Moscow and submit applications for public events in several other regions.
The Vyorstka media outlet published a detailed report on the closed meeting with the families of mobilized soldiers that took place on Nov. 19 at the Novosibirsk Cultural Center. On the whole, the relatives avoided talking to journalists, but it is clear that demands for demobilization were dropped in favor of a discussion with officials on improving the conditions for the mobilized men.
Sources in Kommersant [Russian business daily] and The Insider [independent Russian investigative media outlet] report that the sentiments of mobilized soldiers' wives have become one of the main domestic political issues for the authorities in Russia’s regions in the run-up to the presidential elections. A seminar was held for representatives of regional election commissions and deputy governors for internal policy, where participants were informed about issues that "foreign adversaries'' could try to use "to destabilize the situation in the Russian Federation." One of these topics is the sentiments of the relatives of mobilized men. An Insider source in one of the regional administrations stated that "dealing" with the wives of mobilized soldiers is a priority for governors, and this is constantly emphasized by the presidential administration.
Journalists from IA Khakassia [Russian regional media outlet] found out that the sons of Nadezhda Uzunova, a resident of the republic who attended a meeting with President Putin a year ago along with mothers of participants in the war in Ukraine, did not take part in the war. However, Uzunova herself stated at a pro-government rally in October 2022, that one of her sons was serving as a paratrooper, and the other as a marine. As journalists have discovered, her sons are currently at home in the city of Abakan, and for some time, the woman served as an adviser to the head of Khakassia [Russia’s constituent republic] and is now the director of the autonomous non-profit organization called the Committee of Families of Warriors of the Fatherland of the Republic of Khakassia.
In the Moscow region, the police raided a dormitory in Domodedovo that housed workers from other regions. As a result, about 40 people were detained, taken to the draft office in Balashikha without proper draft notices, and then dispatched to a military unit without a medical examination. According to the Astra Telegram channel, all the detainees are Russian citizens.
The list of mobilized soldiers killed in the war has been updated to include Andrey Zhuravlyov from the Sverdlovsk region.
The mother of a mobilized soldier from the Leningrad region complained that the command of the 25th Motorized Rifle Brigade had not returned her son's body for three months and suggested burying him in the "special military operation" zone. According to her, the brigade commander, out of personal animosity, ordered his transfer to the "Storm 19" unit, where the soldier died a few days later. The command advised the mother to file a lawsuit to have him declared dead and promised to bury the body in the combat zone. The mother refused, demanding that her son's body be returned home for burial and that the brigade command’s actions be investigated.
Astra reported the detention of 39-year-old Bashir Akhmedov and 35-year-old Magomed Pirayev in Russia's constituent republic of Dagestan. Both men had served as mercenaries for the Wagner Group in the war with Ukraine, for which they received a presidential pardon. They are suspected of kidnapping local businessman Abdulbasir Baytimirov in early November and robbing him of 31 million rubles [$350,000].
The Irkutsk Garrison Military Court has sentenced Captain Timofey Kopeikin to five and a half years in a maximum security penal colony for going AWOL, and also stripped him of his rank. In January 2023, Kopeikin failed to report for duty and hid in Irkutsk for about six months. He was detained by the Investigative Committee in July 2023.
A Novosibirsk court sent 74-year-old pensioner Nadezhda Shusharo to pre-trial detention until Jan. 17, 2024. She is accused of setting fire to the city’s military commissariat [enlistment office] on Nov. 17.
In Tyumen, a 15-year-old native of Ukraine was detained on suspicion of setting fire to an electric locomotive on Nov. 17. The case was initially opened on charges of rendering transport vehicles unfit for use, but was later reclassified as sabotage committed by a group of persons upon prior conspiracy, carrying a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
In the Belgorod region, a new treason case has been initiated against volunteer Aleksandr Demidenko, who helped Ukrainians cross the border between Russia and Ukraine. Demidenko’s son informed the Mozhem Ob'yasnit [We Can Explain] Telegram channel that his father was accused of passing "secret information" to Ukraine. Previously, the man, who was detained at the Kolotilovka checkpoint in the Belgorod region, was twice placed in a detention facility under administrative articles and then sent to a pre-trial detention center on charges of arms trafficking. According to his son, he pleaded guilty to this charge under pressure from law enforcement. Photos from the courtroom show signs of physical assault on his body.
In the Sakhalin region, the employees of a local bar refused entry to five servicemen who had come to celebrate receiving their Orders of Courage. Russia Today [a Russian state-controlled international news television network] claims that the administration called in a riot squad, and a security guard used pepper spray on the military personnel and broke the nose of one of them. Valery Limarenko, the head of the Sakhalin region, urged to "sort out the situation," prompting Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Investigative Committee of Russia, to order the initiation of a criminal case against the employees of the private security company.
Orthodox volunteers from the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region–Yugra [Russia's federal subject] handed over combat drones to mobilized residents of the region. Before their shipping, Metropolitan Pavel of Khanty-Mansi and Surgut blessed the drones before delivery.
Volunteers from Chuvashia [Russia’s constituent republic] set out on a mission to deliver a UAZ vehicle to Russian soldiers at the frontline. However, the journey suffered several setbacks as the vehicle broke down three times along the way, as reported by the Serditaya Chuvashia [Angry Chuvashia] Telegram channel.
Residents of the Zabaykalsky region [Russia's federal subject] have been encouraged to create handmade New Year gifts for participants of the ongoing war.
In the town of Pyt-Yakh in the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region children are undergoing training in professional shooting as part of preparations for potential military service.
Lyceum No. 82 in Nizhny Novgorod has introduced new rules for students, including a ban on participating in public activities associated with discrediting the actions of the Russian Armed Forces, volunteer formations, and state authorities. The lyceum's director recently reported two students to the police over a video in which they discussed the war in Ukraine.
Former Wagner Group mercenary Yevgeny Petrov, who previously served a prison sentence for robbery, is now involved in teaching children at a military-patriotic club in Novosibirsk.
Since the summer of 2022, over 170 lawsuits have been filed in Russian courts seeking recognition of Russian soldiers as killed or missing in action during the war with Ukraine in 2022-2023. The Vyorstka media outlet reviewed 18 court documents available on the court websites. Judges will recognize a soldier as KIA if a plaintiff can provide evidence (such as photos from the battlefield or testimony from fellow soldiers). The first such lawsuits were filed in June 2022 by the families of sailors from the sunken cruiser Moskva. After this case, Vyorstka found that not only relatives but also commanders of military units with significant losses started filing lawsuits. Vyorstka interviewed relatives of soldiers whose bodies remained on the battlefield and spoke with them about their legal battles to obtain death certificates.
BBC News Russian has prepared a comprehensive investigation into the organizations that employ various groups, including convicts, Cossacks, far-right activists, football fans, veterans of the war in the Donbas, and ordinary Russians willing to go to the war in Ukraine. It seems that the control over these structures has been divided into two projects under the guidance of the Ministry of Defense: the BARS Combat Army Reserve [Russian military reserve force] and the Redut PMC, which is controlled by the GRU [Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation].