Human rights association

Russian army: predetermined cruelty. Chapter 6. Law enforcement officers and mobilized servicemen

  1. Law enforcement

In the Russian plans for the occupation of Ukraine, an important role was assigned to the law enforcement of the invading country – the Russian Guard (Rosgvardiya), the Federal Security Service (FSB), and special police units. And although international humanitarian law obliges the occupying state to provide protection and assistance to the residents of the occupied territories, it became clear from the first days of the intervention that the Russian security forces were primarily focused on performing repressive functions. The establishment of the “new order” and the “Russian world” was accompanied by the harsh suppression of peaceful street demonstrations and other forms of non-violent protest, arrests of civil activists and simple sympathizers of Ukraine, coercion of cooperation of local officials, and pressure on entrepreneurs and media representatives.

International investigators involved in the investigation of Russian war crimes have concluded that the security forces in the occupied territories have become an instrument of the Kremlin’s plan to destroy Ukrainian identity. “The first stage included arrests and, in many cases, the killings of people designated as “leaders” – those who could physically or culturally resist the occupation,” said Wayne Jordash, head of the Mobile Justice Team, a team of international investigators who cooperate with the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine. “The second stage included the filtration process – those suspected of having ties to “leaders” or involved in organizing any type of resistance were deported to Russia or held in isolation cells and tortured.”

It should be noted that the entire history of law enforcement agencies in modern Russia is closely related to violence and brutality. Special services have become a pillar of Putin’s authoritarian regime and have long been used by him to persecute political opponents and representatives of the public sector within the country. Under the guise of the need to intensify the fight against crime, the Russian security forces have systematically used and are using violence against their own people. Torture to obtain a confession and torture in places of detention ceased to be isolated excesses and became a well-known and familiar phenomenon in Russia. The leadership of the FSB, Rosgvardiya, Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN), and the police deny the prevalence of traditions of violence in their departments. Still, in the modern world of digital technologies and the availability of mobile video cameras, it is difficult to hide the truth – the Internet is full of materials about the brutality of Russian law enforcement officers.

In October 2021, the project received and published video footage of the tortures and rapes of prisoners in the Saratov Tuberculosis Hospital No. 1. The video recordings were obtained from the programmer Serhiy Saveliev, who maintained the video recorders in the institutions of the penal system. The programmer downloaded and exported 40 GB of video files, which recorded cases of inhumane treatment and rape of convicts in prisons in the Irkutsk, Saratov, and Vladimir regions.

In February-March 2022, law enforcement officers systematically used violence to stop anti-war protests in Russia: they knocked people to the ground, beat them with batons, strangled them, hit them against a wall, and broke their arms. At least 39 cases were recorded when an ambulance was called to the police stations in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Rostov-on-Don to hospitalize beaten demonstrators. At least 30 police departments in 9 cities of Russia reported the use of force. Lawyers discovered 52 reports about the unjustified use of force by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Russian Guard on February 24-28, 2022. During the actions on March 6, law enforcement officers used force against at least 34 detainees.

In September 2022, in Moscow, the police broke into the apartment of Artyom K., who had publicly read anti-war poems the day before. After his arrest, he was beaten and raped with a barbell. The girl detained together with Artyom said that in the police station, they stuck stickers on her face, tried to glue her mouth shut, pulled out her hair, pushed her, and threatened her with gang rape.

The Russian authorities “do not notice” the increase in the level of law enforcement violence, and the investigative committee and the judicial system demonstrate their uncharacteristic humanity towards law enforcement officers accused of brutality.

According to the results of consideration of complaints about torture by law enforcement officers, in 78% of cases, decisions were made to refuse to open a criminal case, and in another 10% – cases were closed during the investigation. Over the past 12 years, approximately 40,000 cases of beatings and torture by Ministry of Internal Affairs employees, Rosgvardiya, and riot police remained without investigation and trials. Law enforcement officers were acquitted in courts ten times more often than civilians (data for 2020).

Experts of the UN Human Rights Committee expressed deep concern over the preservation of the practice of torture in Russia, which is exacerbated by the ineffective investigation of torture complaints, the introduction of repression against those who filed these complaints, as well as the lack of reliable and detailed statistics.

Merciless in the treatment of its citizens, Russia’s law enforcement system could not be humane to the population of the country it intended to conquer. For many years, Russian security forces were instilled with contempt for human rights, the habit of using violence in the performance of official tasks, and confidence in the impunity of their actions. They clearly extended the philosophy of the permissibility of violence and entrenched models of behavior to the civilian population of the occupied territories. And due to the ideology of hatred towards Ukrainians and tangible combat losses, the brutality of law enforcement gained hypertrophied forms and scales.

“Rosgvardiya was sent to the city, they began to disperse the demonstrators. They used stun grenades, rubber bullets, and tear gas. Many people were injured. They grabbed people in the square and sent them to the basements. Detainees were beaten and tortured there – they were looking for patriots, soldiers, former police officers and SBU employees, volunteers, priests, and even hunters. Many were beaten and wounded when released, many are still missing. A few were killed and simply thrown out into the street,” says a resident of Kherson about the life of the townspeople during the occupation.

Andriy, a resident of Mariupol, on whose phone FSB officers found a video of the speech of the President of Ukraine, was tortured in the tent of the filtration point. “One of them said: “You told us that you are not interested in politics” and immediately hit me in the throat with his hand. Then others joined in the beating. They called it “re-education,” Andrii recalls. The beating lasted more than two hours, after which the boy was forced to record a video message saying “Glory to the Russian Army” and was released. His mother was nearby and heard the FSB officers torturing her son. After Andrii, another man was brought into the tent – he had a patriotic tattoo. “They immediately knocked him to the ground and started beating him. They didn’t even ask,” Andriy said.

On March 26, 2022, the occupiers kidnapped the headman of the village of Verkhnya Krynytsia, Zaporizhzhia region, and three other men. The people were brought to the seized premises of the Vasylkiv district police department, where they were kept for several days. Detainees were stuck with needles under their nails, poured chemical reagents on their skin, tortured with electricity, and threatened that their relatives would be killed if they did not agree to cooperate with the occupation authorities and did not tell about local patriots. It was later established that employees of the Makhachkala riot police of the Rosgvardiya Directorate in the Republic of Dagestan tortured the men.

  1. Mobilized Servicemen

On September 21, 2022, for the first time since the Second World War, a “partial” mobilization was announced on the territory of Russia. Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu announced the intention to recruit 300,000 people to the army, explaining the scale of the measure by the fact that “Russia is fighting not so much with the Ukrainian army as with the collective West.” Despite the hysterical war propaganda, the prospect of going to the frontline did not arouse enthusiasm among the Russian population – according to various sources, 700 thousand to 1 million Russians left the country to avoid mobilization measures.

Similarly to recruitment to volunteer battalions, the Russian government was forced to compensate for the shortage of human mobilization resources by reducing the requirements for new recruits. “The Military Commissariat will not spare anyone,” declared the military commissar of the Kursk region, and his words can be recognized as the motto of the all-Russian mobilization campaign.

The State Duma adopted a law that allows conscription for military service of persons with unexpunged or unexpired criminal records, including for certain serious crimes. Recruitment for military service took place in psychoneurological dispensaries, hostels, and shelters for people experiencing homelessness. People with mental disorders and drug addiction were sent to the army.

In October 2022, the police arrived at the “rescue hangar” of the Orthodox aid service “Miloserdie” (Moscow), took the passports of the homeless people present, loaded them onto buses, and took them away. An eyewitness claimed: “The buses have been coming for three days now and pick up 20-25 people each time.” The 60-year-old man later said that they were taken to the military commissariat. Another homeless person reported that the police “used a little force” and “pressured them morally”: “If you don’t sign the summons, there will be some kind of punishment. Terrible.”

In the fall of 2022, doctors at Polyclinic No. 99 in St. Petersburg were required to hand out summonses to patients who came to see them. The audio recording with the corresponding order of the chief physician was published on the Internet. In total, local doctors issued more than 100 summonses to men of draft age.

31-year-old Semen L. was mobilized from Tyumen at the beginning of October 2022. According to his mother, he was treated at a regional psychiatric hospital for deep depression and paranoid schizophrenia and should continue taking special medications. The employees of the Military Commissariat were not bothered by his diagnosis. In the Novgorod region, drug addict Aleksandr S., who also suffers from hepatitis C, was mobilized for the war. According to his mother, he is registered in a drug dispensary and has an unbalanced psyche. Despite this, he was sent to serve without passing a medical examination.

At the legislative level, labor immigrants are encouraged to participate in the war against Ukraine. In September 2022, the State Duma of the Russian Federation established a simplified procedure for obtaining Russian citizenship by foreigners who will serve in the Russian army for at least a year. In the “Sakharov” immigration center, a conscription point of the Ministry of Defense was opened, and detained migrant offenders were offered to be sent to the frontline as an alternative to deportation from the country. Russian human rights defenders recorded numerous cases of police raids on migrants in places of their compact stay in order to force them to sign consent to military service. The pressure is especially harsh on foreigners sentenced to suspended sentences for committing crimes.

“The immigrant detention center in Stavropol actively recruits Central Asian citizens detained for violating Russian immigration legislation. These people have already bought tickets to return to their home countries, but the military, who came to the center, prevent them from leaving,” reports Ruslan Vahapov, an expert of the non-governmental organization “Russia Behind Bars.”

“Anything is possible in Russia now. There are cases when immigrants are detained on the street by the police or Rosgvardiya. They are beaten, tortured, and forced to join the army. Of course, they agree to serve, – says Valentina Chupik, head of the human rights foundation “Tong Jahony.” – In addition to physical violence, foreigners sentenced to suspended sentences are also threatened with a revocation of the suspension and imposition of the actual sentence in prison. And there, once again, they will be beaten and sent to the same war,” argues the human rights activist.

Citizen of Tajikistan B. was taken directly from the construction site and brought to one of the pavilions of the Exhibition Center. “There were many people there,” says B., “and everyone was served with summonses.” For a long time, they threatened to kill me and promised to break my arms. They handed me a summons, which I didn’t want to accept, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It’s good that the police let me go home to pack, and I managed to leave for Belarus.”

Mobilization was the most successful in economically disadvantaged regions of Russia. “The data we collected show that the risk of dying in the war in Ukraine for a man from Buryatia and Tyva exceeds the similar risk for a young Moscow citizen by approximately 100 times,” says Oleksiy Bezsudnov, associate professor of the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Exeter (Great Britain).

Bad selection of personnel and social inequality during the mobilization, which took on coercive forms, led to a skeptical attitude of the mobilized persons to the norms of the law. It led to them ignoring a military serviceman’s ethics and raised hatred for the enemy nation due to whose alleged intransigence they are forced to fight. Under the stress of war, mentally depressed new recruits resort to violence and uncontrolled aggression, even for a minor reason, spilling out their complexes and fears about the future on others.

In October 2022, in the city of Vasylivka, Zaporizhia region, four mobilized servicemen entered a farm and slaughtered 13 cows, and then attacked and beat their colleagues – Russian servicemen who were near the farm. Then, mobilized servicemen stole the car from local workers and tried to pass through the checkpoint, where Russian soldiers tried to stop them. In response, mobilized servicemen opened fire and wounded the Russian sergeant. According to eyewitnesses, they themselves did not understand what they were doing because they were drunk almost to the point of fainting.

During the training at the shooting range in the Belgorod region of the Russian Federation, three mobilized servicemen from among the foreign citizens shot with a machine gun other soldiers who were nearby. The Ministry of Defense of Russia informed about 11 killed and 16 wounded, although according to eyewitness testimony, there were many more victims.

In December 2022, at the Misyash station of the Chelyabinsk region, in the compartment of the headquarters car of the military echelon, an intoxicated mobilized soldier attacked and beat the captain, who was also mobilized earlier. Due to his injuries, the officer died on the spot.

There is no doubt that soldiers who kill their fellow soldiers without hesitation or remorse would not treat the civilian population of the country against which they have been forced to fight humanely.

(to be continued)


The 1st chapter, “The Objectives of War” of the series “Russian Army: Predetermined Cruelty,” can be found here.

The 2nd chapter, “The Ideology of War” of the series “Russian Army: Predetermined Cruelty,” can be found here.

The 3rd chapter, “The Discipline” of the series “Russian Army: Predetermined Cruelty,” can be found here.

The 4th chapter, “People’s Militia” of Separate Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Region (ORDLO) and Volunteer Battalions” of the series “Russian Army: Predetermined Cruelty,” can be found here.

The 5th chapter, “PMC and Fighting Extremist Groups” of the series “Russian Army: Predetermined Cruelty,” can be found


The material was prepared by experts of the Association UMDPL within the project “Documentation of war crimes committed by the Russian Federation” (The project is carried out with the financial support of NED).

We remind you that Association UMDPL is working on creating a “Black Register of Executions, Tortures and Cases of Inhumane Treatment of the Civilian Population in the Territories Temporarily Occupied since February 24, 2022.” More details here (in Ukrainian).


Other news