Mobilization in Russia: selling cows to buy military gear

A mobilized soldier ended up in prison for assaulting a superior; now he wants his family to get him to join the Wagner PMC so he could escape prison by fighting against Ukrainians.


Last October, a mobilized Petty Officer First Class Stanislav Rybin assaulted a superior officer in a training camp outside Omsk. The officer had been very strict with soldiers about discipline. Three months later the Omsk Garrison Court sentenced Rybin to six years in a high-security penal colony. A Russian media outlet Novaya Vkladka has interviewed Rybin’s lawyer, girlfriend, and parents. Here’s his story summarized by Holod.

A willing recruit

Stanislav Rybin from the town of Bolshegrivskoye, some three hours’ drive from Omsk, went to serve in the military right after finishing school in 2006. He spent four years in the service on a naval vessel, becoming a petty officer first class. After getting out of the military, he worked for some time as a manager in a restaurant in Sochi, then in a diagnostic center in Moscow.

In 2022, Stanislav came back to Omsk to be closer to his girlfriend, Margarita. On weekdays he worked as a slinger signaller at a metal fabrication plant, spending weekends in his hometown helping parents around the house. In September Stanislav and Margarita were going to attend his brother’s wedding in Krasnodar, but the trip fell through because of the mobilization.

As soon as the mobilization was announced, Stanislav came to the city recruiting station and asked that they issue him a summons. Just a day later he departed for the training camp for mobilized soldiers in Cheryomushki on the outskirts of Omsk. He told Margarita about his decision on the phone: “I can’t stay on the sidelines when our guys are in there. Don’t worry and don’t even think of crying. It’s got to be done.”

Stanislav’s 67-year old mother, Emma Belkova, tried to dissuade him from going to war. She said she didn’t need the “duty” that her son was going to fulfill: “I have cousins near Kyiv and in Odesa. So many boys have fallen! I don’t want my or anyone else’s kids to die [in the war]. They took twenty people from our town at once. Family men, debt-ridden ones, all sorts of men. And ours, he volunteered,” Emma told journalists.

Still, she decided to buy her son the gear for the front. In September, she and her husband sold their last cow to buy Stanislav a duffel bag, a sleeping bag, thermals, kneepads, a walkie-talkie, winter combat boots, and a supply of medicines. Rybin wrote to his girlfriend Margarita that they were training in Cheryomushki, but he would like to prepare and train even more.

Stanislav shared with her photos of his field training, saying “now they prepare us and we’ll go into action!” Then he suddenly stopped replying to her messages.

The criminal case

Early on October 14, three weeks after the start of the mobilization campaign, Emma got the following message from her son: “Mom, they’re cooking up a criminal case against me, two days ago they took me away from my unit. Looking for a lawyer now, there’s no need to come. I’ll tell you later, when there is an outcome.” Soon, one of Rybin’s friends called Margarita and told her that Stanislav was being held in a pre-trial detention facility: “There was a conflict, Stas stood up for his friend.”

That friend’s name is Anton. They became friends while working at the plant in Omsk. In September 2022, Anton received the military summons, and Stanislav promised him that they would go into the service together. At the Cheryomushki camp the friends ended up in different units within the same division. Stanislav was appointed a signal squad leader, and Anton was assigned to a maintenance company.

On October 7, 2022, Maj. Dmitry Mikhailov, a retired reserve officer from Tyumen region, arrived at their camp. He was appointed to command the maintenance company to which Anton had been assigned. According to Daniyar Kushkeyev, Rybin’s lawyer, starting from his first day at the camp the major established a new order: he forced the servicemen to move from one barracks to another and tormented them with roll calls on the parade ground. His subordinates took a disliking to him, and Anton often complained about the major to Stanislav. The lawyer says that Stanislav was evidently outraged by the situation, but usually kept silent. But on the morning of October 12, he snapped: after the wakeup he went to have a plain talk with the commander who “offended his mates”. The day before, Dmitry Mikhaylov ordered them to move to another barracks, which didn’t have enough beds for everyone.

According to the investigators, Rybin entered the barracks, flung the major onto the bed and put a hunting knife to his throat. Holding Mikhaylov by the throat, he allegedly threatened to kill him and moved the knife like he was stabbing him in the heart several times. According to the case files, by doing that Rybin intended to ensure that the major would treat his subordinates, including Anton, in a better way.

Meanwhile, Stanislav insists that he never turned his knife’s cutting edge towards the major. The defense attorney’s version has it that Stanislav did, indeed, enter the barracks and push the major by the shoulder so that he fell on the bed. However, the lawyer says that Stanislav was holding Dmitry not by the throat but by the shoulder and kept the knife’s cutting edge turned to himself rather than to the major. Stanislav yelled: “Everyone’s sick of you here, enough of that bullshit! You got it?” Then he waved the knife over the major’s chest, let him go, and went out for a smoke. The lawyer says that Dmitry followed him out of the barracks and promised Stanislav to sue him.

All this while Anton was standing behind Stanislav’s back, watching the brawl together with two other mobilized soldiers. He was not allowed to be a witness in the case. On the other hand, the investigators chose not to pursue a group assault version either, even though Anton was detained in the guardroom for two days along with Stanislav. In early 2023, Anton was sent to the combat zone in Ukraine.

“A show trial”

Since then, Stanislav has been in detention. He was indicted on two criminal counts: violent actions against a superior and threat of murder.

In December 2022, after the indictment was endorsed by the prosecutor, the criminal case was submitted to court. Three months after the incident in Cheryomushki, the Omsk Garrison Court found Stanislav Rybin guilty on both counts and sentenced him to six years in a high-security penitentiary. The court considered the fact that the crime was committed during the ongoing mobilization an aggravating circumstance. It also disregarded Rybin’s partially guilty plea, the apologies he offered to the Maj. Dmitry Mikhaylov during the investigation, and the fact that Rybin did not actually inflict any injuries on him.

Stanislav’s mother Emma Belkova sees this as a show trial intended “to scare other mobilized off wrangling with their superiors.” “Okay, [he deserves] a fine, a community service, even a suspended sentence. Yes, he did insult, push, humiliate [the major], but is that worth of six years in a high-security [prison]?” she complained to journalists. She said that Stanislav was taking five books from the prison library each week and doing push-ups in the solitary confinement. He also asked his family to contact the Wagner PMC so he could join them and fight against Ukrainians instead of going to prison. Emma Belkova got back only her son’s uniform. The family never got back the other elements of the gear which they bought with the money from selling the cow.

At least one similar story has gone public: in early 2023, a military court sentenced a mobilized soldier Alexander Leshkov to seven years in a high-security penitentiary. On November 13, Leshkov swore at a lieutenant colonel and hit him in the chest with his fist at the Patriot military theme park. The altercation was caused by Leshkov complaining about the gear issued to soldiers, which he found to be of poor quality, and the amount of time they got to practice shooting and other elements of combat training, which he thought wasn't enough.

Cover photo
Novaya Vkladka
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