Leonid Nikitinsky:  Catch a thief – and sign him up

24 June 2024

by Leonid Nikitinsky

The investigative organs will be carrying out a state order to supply the armed forces with new conscripts

Source: Novaya gazeta

Kommersant has reported on an instruction issued to all investigative organs and organs of inquiry regulating the signing of contracts with persons on remand to serve in the Russian Armed Forces. Judging from the abundance and precision of the quotations, journalists have managed to obtain the instruction issued, presumably, to the Interior Ministry’s investigative departments.

The document with the impossibly long title—“Procedure for interaction between the command of military units and institutions and investigative organs and organs of inquiry on issues concerning the suspension and halting of preliminary investigations in connection with the conscription of suspects and the accused to serve in the Russian Armed Forces during a period of mobilization, martial law, or wartime”—requires the investigator or detective, upon opening a case, to inform the accused of its possible “suspension” in the event of him signing a contract to serve in the armed forces.

Should he agree (and just try not to agree to this), the “conscript’s” information is sent to the military enlistment office “where he has been located”—that is, detained. The military enlistment office verifies his fitness for service and in the event of a positive conclusion reports this to the investigator, who suspends the case.

According to Kommersant, military enlistment office representatives carry out the actions connected with the recruitment of suspects right in the remand centre, to which they are given access for this purpose.

On the day of the accused’s release from the remand centre (or temporary holding facility), the military has the accused drafted and then transferred to the oversight of the military enlistment office and from there sent to a unit (essentially under military convoy).

Other than the detailing of the procedure, there is nothing new to this story, although it is interesting at minimum from the standpoint of legislative technique. Kommersant (evidently assuming that its readers will catch on themselves) refrained from conclusions that should make all Russian citizens of the male sex in the country aged 18 to 65 think twice, but we will construct this prognosis nonetheless.

Federal Law No. 270 “On the characteristics of the criminal liability of individuals recruited to participate in a special military operation” was passed a year ago, on 24 June 2023. According to this law, sent to the special military operations zone along with those convicted (who were recruited in parallel from penal colonies via the Wagner PMC [Private Military Company]) were those whose guilt had not been proved by a court verdict and whose criminal prosecution had been conditionally suspended.

All of a sudden, the Duma remembered that they had forgotten to add to the 24 June 2023 law the necessary changes to the Russian UK [Criminal Code] and UPK [Criminal Procedural Code]—and this was done only on 23 March 2024 (Federal Law No. 64). Federal Law No. 270 established three grounds for the subsequent closing of cases suspended by the investigation: the receipt of a state medal; injury or illness precluding continuation of service; the end of the special military operation (unlike those already convicted and enlisted in a PMC, most often on six-month contracts, contracts within the framework of Federal Law No 270 are concluded for a term of 1-5 years).

Purely hypothetically, we can explain legislators’ nine-month lapse by the fact that not that many persons awarded medals and/or injured returned to the special military operation, and the investigative organs did not require additional grounds for closing cases “in connection with the death of the accused.”

The appearance of detailed instructions for investigators and detectives from all departments can be looked on as a de facto order to step up the work recruiting “contract soldiers.” In particular, the document requires investigative departments (we quote from Kommersant) “to ensure the conduct of ‘cumulative actions’ on recruiting contract soldiers… for oversight over the mobilization, lists must be drawn up indicating alleged acts and staff appointed responsible for this work… Responsible officers are supposed to carry out an analysis monthly of their interaction with the military enlistment offices and to ‘ensure’ the swift resolution of problematic issues that arise.”

It being easy to imagine the stick system of accountability in the Interior Ministry and other organs of inquiry and investigation, it’s not hard to predict an increase in the number of cases opened for the sole purpose of increasing enlistment numbers and then surpassing that number “over the previous quarter.”

As we pointed out back in March, when the amendments to the UK were passed, the list of articles under which cases are opened for which the investigator is required to offer the accused an alternative in the form of a military contract includes the widely-used Art. 228 UK (possession and procurement of narcotics without intent to sell).

We can anticipate not only an increase in the number of serious crimes actually committed by those who have returned from the special military operation for whatever reason but also a purely statistical increase in so-called less serious crimes. The mechanism sketched out in the instruction does not rule out a repeat “mobilization,” but basically the efforts required to enlist contract soldiers will tear investigators away from solving actual crimes. All “draft-age” men regardless of deferments and health condition would do better to sew their pockets shut, although even this, should something happen, won’t save them from the “call-up.”

Translated by Marian Schwartz

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