mobilization briefs
November 25, 2023

Mobilization in Russia for Nov. 23-24, 2023 CIT Volunteer Summary

Army Recruitment and Military Service Advertising

Law enforcement officers raided a Wildberries [Russian online retailer] warehouse in the city of Elektrostal in the Moscow region. According to witnesses, they rounded up illegal migrants and newly naturalized citizens, some of whom were served draft notices. The police loaded men of conscription age, who had not yet performed their military service, onto paddy wagons. While the roundup continues, police have already taken 105 individuals to a draft office, filling at least two buses with warehouse employees.

In Moscow, officials are holding a man suffering from asthma at the Khoroshyovsky draft office in an attempt to force him into the army. Ilya K., 24, visited the draft office to submit medical documents. Officials, however, told him that the medical evaluation board disagreed with civilian doctors, arguing that his illness did not preclude him from military service. He was then served a backdated draft notice to justify his transfer to a duty station. His family is planning to appeal the draft office’s decision.

Roman Sayfulin also visited the Khoroshyovsky draft office in order to submit medical documents. He suffers from hypertension and used to bring the results of his daily blood pressure tests. This time, however, officials detained Sayfulin, confiscated his phone and forcibly took him to a military collection point. In an attempt to rescue the young man, his family has filed a complaint with the prosecutor’s office, but so far without success. Officials are threatening Sayfulin with prison if he does not sign the documents required to start military service.

Speaking with the Mozhem Ob'yasnit [We Can Explain] Telegram channel, human rights activists noted the unprecedented scale and frequency of migrant and student roundups taking place during this fall’s regular conscription campaign. Alexey Tabalov, Head of Shkola Prizyvnika [Conscript School, a human rights organization], describes the campaign as the harshest to date, at least in Moscow and its region. He says that it is virtually impossible to avoid illegal conscription this time, with previously effective measures no longer working. Moreover, he warns that conscripts may subsequently face pressure to sign a contract and end up joining the war against Ukraine.

According to the Agentstvo.Novosti [Agency News] Telegram channel, in November, the police and draft offices conducted twice as many large-scale roundups with the distribution of draft notices to people with acquired citizenship compared to the previous month. Four such raids were reported by the media in November, compared to two in October. Human rights activists are also recording an increase in roundups targeting people with acquired citizenship, according to Grigory Sverdlin, head of the Idite Lesom! [Flee through the woods/Get lost you all] anti-war project. He believes that there will be more of such raids.

Authorities and Relatives of Mobilized Soldiers

Following the "rally in a closed format" of the female relatives of draftees held on Nov. 19 in Novosibirsk, the participants of the meeting published a list of the most common problems faced by military personnel. The problems include the lack of leave, rotation and supply. There is also the dissatisfaction with "depressive moods due to unlimited mobilization terms" and difficulties receiving medical care.

Relatives of the mobilized posted a video demanding the return of their loved ones and the rotation of draftees. They say that their lives have changed since the announcement of the "partial" mobilization. The women organized themselves after a manifesto was published on the Put Domoy [Way Home] Telegram channel.

Mobilized soldiers, volunteer fighters and contract soldiers

Journalists from Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet] and BBC News Russian, along with volunteers, based on open sources, have verified the names of 37,686 servicemen killed in Ukraine, including 4,527 mobilized soldiers. In the past week, the list has been updated with 634 military personnel, including 126 mobilized men. Additionally, BBC News Russian recalculated the number of deceased soldiers per 10,000 men aged 16 to 61 for each region. According to the calculation, the top five regions with the highest death rates are Tyva [Russia's constituent republic] (48.6 deaths), Buryatia [Russia's constituent republic] (36.7), the Nenets autonomous region [Russia's federal subject] (30), the Republic of Altai (26.5), and the Zabaykalsky region [Russia's federal subject] (26.2). Moscow (1) and Saint Petersburg (2.5) are at the bottom of the list—the likelihood of being killed in the war for residents of the capitals is significantly lower than for residents of several regions in Siberia and the Far East.

Soldiers from the 26th Regiment recorded a video address to Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu. Deployed in the village of Krynky in the Kherson region, where the Armed Forces of Ukraine have recently managed to gain a foothold, the soldiers claim that they have been held in the village for four months without rotation or leave. Many of their fellow soldiers have been killed, and only 50 out of three platoons remain alive. The command sends them to the Dnipro islands, where they face certain death. Meanwhile, they are ready to obey orders, but only if the regiment commander goes on the mission with them.

The sister of an ex-convict recruited for the war has been trying to get his body returned for three months. In May, 25-year-old Andrey Karavayev, while in a penal colony, signed a contract with the Ministry of Defense, and after two weeks of training with the Storm-Z unit, ended up on the frontline. He was wounded during an assault, placed in a hospital, and later sent to a basement prison in Zaitseve, where he was held for a month and a half. He was then transferred to the 25th Brigade, where he complained about the conditions of service. In August, according to fellow soldiers, the entire group, including Andrey, was killed. The sister claims that their bodies are not being searched for or evacuated because they are members of the Storm-Z unit. Recently, relatives of ex-convicts fighting in the Storm-Z unit have regularly complained about issues with evacuating the bodies of the deceased.

Ilya Andreyev, a serviceman of the 12th Tank Regiment, who was not released from the "LPR" despite the commander's permission and was sent to an illegal basement prison in Zaitseve, turned out to be a former journalist for the Russian state news network Channel One. In May 2022, Andreyev refused to report on the war in Ukraine and resigned. In 2023, due to financial difficulties, he signed a contract with the Ministry of Defense. Novaya Gazeta Europe [European edition of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta] and Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, independent Russian investigative media outlet] spoke with the journalist's wife, Yana, about what happened to Andreyev. According to her, her husband has not been in contact since Nov. 22.

In the Belgorod region, about 20 Russian women who signed contracts with the Ministry of Defense to serve as medics are not being allowed to the frontline. Olga, a medic from the city of Tyumen, signed a contract in June and has been living in the military unit for five months. She cannot return home and is paid less than in civilian life.

Sentences, Legal Proceedings and Incidents

Ilya Averchenko, an ex-convict associated with the Wagner Group, wanted in connection with the Nov. 18 murder of a local resident in the town of Kuybyshev, has been apprehended following a hot pursuit. Averchenko, who had several previous convictions, was pardoned and returned to his hometown from the war two months ago. Upon his return, he was captured on video threatening an unidentified person with a knife.

Since the start of the mobilization, more than 4,000 criminal cases related to desertion from service have been filed with the courts, as reported by Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet]. Of the 4,121 cases of going AWOL, 3,470 have already been decided. In the majority of cases, the court imposed suspended sentences, with contract soldiers accounting for 63% of such decisions and mobilized soldiers for 56%. Military courts have been delivering around 100 verdicts per week on such cases since June. There are also 96 cases related to the more serious charge of desertion. By November 2023, 317 cases of failure to execute orders had been brought to the courts, with penalties for this offense generally being considerably milder than for leaving duty.

Zorigto Arabzhaev, a mobilized soldier, was sentenced to five years in prison for going AWOL. Earlier this year, he was granted leave, after which he was supposed to return to his unit but failed to do so. When military officials visited Arabzhaev's home, his son presented a death certificate for his father. It was later revealed that the document had been forged. In court, Arabzhaev explained that he didn't want to return to the frontline due to his wife's emotional state. In September 2022, their eldest son died in a car accident, and two months later, Arabzhaev was mobilized. His wife was deeply concerned for him and threatened suicide if he returned to the war.

The court in Rostov approved the sentences for servicemen Pavel Shnekaev and Bakhtiyar Dosmetov, who refused to participate in combat operations against Ukraine. Shnekaev was given two years and three months in prison, while Dosmetov was sentenced to two years in a penal settlement.

In the Moscow region, three teenagers were detained for setting fire to a train a month ago and for setting fire to relay cabinets in Domodedovo on Nov. 23. It is also known that the young men admitted their guilt, and a criminal case was initiated against them under the article "Disruption of vehicles or communication lines."

In Perm, a 72-year-old man (or, according to other sources, an 82-year-old man) was detained for attempting to set fire to a draft office. The elderly man explained that he had received a phone call from an "investigator of the Tagansky Internal Affairs Department" who claimed that loans totaling 2 million rubles [$22,400] had been taken out in his name and that he needed to set fire to the draft office to write them off.

An activist from the Kaluga region described a search conducted as part of a criminal case related to the sabotage of relay cabinets, during which Federal Security Service (FSB) officers assaulted him and threatened him with sexual abuse with a dumbbell, forcing him to confess to crimes. Speaking to Mediazona, the activist specified that after the search he was released as a witness in the case and left Russia.

In Crimea, the FSB detained a Russian citizen suspected of high treason. According to investigators, the man was smuggling military aircraft parts into Ukraine.

The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs has placed Grigory Sverdlin, the creator of the Idite Lesom! Telegram channel, on the federal wanted list. The project aids deserters and those evading mobilization. Specific charges are unknown. Last week, the Ministry of Justice added Sverdlin to the list of "foreign agents." It is known that Sverdlin left Russia in March 2022.


At the Defense Ministry's boarding school for girls, the New Year's Toy for the Defender of the Fatherland campaign was launched. Fifth-graders made 40 New Year's toys for members of the military.

Fifth-graders from the village of Sosnovy Bor in the Moscow region were brought to the Vybor [Choice] Youth Center for a "lesson of courage." The children dressed in medical uniforms and visited a room where a military hospital facility had been set up. The students were greeted by bloodied mannequins and amputated limbs.


Aleksandr Osipov, governor of the Zabaykalsky region, has been awarded the medal "Participant of Special Military Operation." The award supposedly recognizes Osipov's contributions, including visits to the frontline and involvement in recruiting soldiers for the war effort.


The Bumaga [Paper] independent media outlet has produced a report highlighting the efforts of wives and mothers of mobilized soldiers to bring their loved ones back home. Journalists joined the movement of mobilized soldiers' wives at a reception hosted by United Russia [Putin's ruling party] in Saint Petersburg.

Using the case of Egor Minin, a mobilized soldier from the Arkhangelsk region who went missing, the Sever.Realii [part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty] online media outlet released a story revealing the challenges faced by military families. According to the report, relatives of soldiers have to prove to the Russian Ministry of Defense that their loved ones are, in fact, being held captive.