28.11.22 Mobilisation Review

The Stolen War: mobilisation in Russia is carried out by a special presidential department, but only one-fifth of allocated funds were spent for their intended purpose

The Moscow Times found out that since 2014, 32.5 billion rubles have been allocated for mobilisation preparation. Before the war, no one was particularly interested in how this, in fact, a small amount of money was spent. Now it is inevitably falling into the spotlight of public attention. Procurement under this item could be done without competition, which made it especially attractive to the bureaucracy. In Moscow, the money was used to install monitors in subway cars, and the authorities of the now front-line Belgorod region spent almost the entire mobilisation budget on thematic souvenirs. Moreover, the expenditures were supervised by a special department subordinate directly to President Putin. However, all of this is just the edge of Atlantis. Investigations of the history of the BARS mobilisation reserve training program and army rearmament programs are coming up.

After the deaths of civilians in the Kursk and Belgorod border regions, the inspection of shelters and alarm systems all over Russia has begun. In theory, all these activities should be carried out in peacetime as part of mobilisation preparation, which in Russian law is defined as "advance preparation to ensure the defense of the state in the event of an armed attack". An important peculiarity of the mobilisation preparation work is that according to the law it can be done on a non-competitive basis, which largely explains why this item of expenditure is so popular among state officials: it does not require any tenders.

The Moscow Times analysed information on the government procurement website from 2014 to November 2022, using a special " mobilisation preparation" filter (at the time of publication, the filter was no longer available on the website). In total, 11,000 relevant purchases were made during that time, which included 18,000 different goods for a total of 32.5 billion rubles. However, only 6,500 contracts worth a total of 5.9 billion rubles include activities and expenditures somehow related to the needs of mobilisation preparations; this is less than 20% of all funds spent. 

The top three spenders on mobilisation preparation are Moscow, St. Petersburg, and for some reason the Smolensk Region, adjacent to Belarus. Regions bordering Ukraine have spent a total of 1.2 billion, which is eight times less than in Moscow and five times less than in St. Petersburg. The Belgorod Region, which was the most affected by the war, spent a measly 31.6 million rubles over eight years, and most of it was spent on souvenir products — notepads, cups, frames, folders, pens, cups "For Successful Mobilisation Training — 2022," etc. 

The Moscow Times found out that of the 5.2 billion rubles allocated for mobilisation preparation in Smolensk Oblast 3.5 billion was spent on things that were not directly related to it: road repairs and supply of specialized equipment for a total of 2.2 billion rubles. Another 70 million rubles went toward building the zoo, where, as the authorities assure, a mobilisation center was supposed to be organized. However, when the mobilisation was announced, it turned out that the zoo had not yet been built, and the animals from the old zoo had been sold off to the public. 

Four contracts for 6.2 billion rubles — out of a total of 8.8 billion received by Moscow — were signed by the Moscow Metro. Of these, 1.7 billion went to JSC "Metrowagonmash" for the supply of subway car monitors. Maxim Liksutov, the acting deputy mayor of Moscow, who supervises the Moscow subway, was one of the "Metrowagonmash" owners up until 2012. According to one of the subway employees (quoted by The Moscow Times), they do not have anything that could be useful in an emergency situation: "If there is a bombing, people will just sit on the floor, like in Kyiv, there is not even something to bandage the wounded. It is unclear how TVs and a ground control center will help".

The Moscow Times discovered that 5.3 billion rubles were allocated for mobilisation preparations in St. Petersburg. Most of this money (4 billion) went to the city's Committee for Informatization and Communications. In turn, it allocated 3 billion to a subsidiary company of Smolny State Unitary Enterprise ATS which builds communications lines and creates a telecommunications network for the executive branch of the government. Another 800 million rubles in St. Petersburg was spent on the creation of the "Safe City" system, which, despite its name, has nothing to do with the mobilisation. According to the St. Petersburg administration's website, within this system video surveillance on the streets and a communication system with emergency services and authorities responsible for housing and communal services and landscaping were developed.

Mobilisation preparations are handled by a special department reporting directly to the president — the General Directorate for Specialised Programs (GUSP). According to the statute of the agency, the GUSP is obliged to "work out a plan of measures for mobilisation preparation of the state in peacetime and report annually to the president on the performance of these works". 

However, all this, of course, is but the edge of Atlantis. The history of the BARS mobilisation reserve training program awaits its investigation (Re: Russia has already written about it earlier). The decree on the creation of a mobilisation human reserve was signed by Putin back in 2015. But, as can be seen with a simple Internet search, the agitation campaign to attract reservists did not begin until July 2021. In September 2021, some official media outlets reported that it was planned to sign contracts with 38,000 reservists in the Southern Federal District. However, the "Zvezda" TV channel announced during the same days that a corps of 38 thousand reservists had been formed and had already joined the exercises. At the same time, The Moscow Times sources were claiming that the program had managed to attract no more than 8 thousand people, whose legal status remained unclear, and they were receiving contract payments from an unknown customer through VTB Bank.