Since the Russian partial mobilization, the number of attacks on Russian recruiting offices has increased. One of them is 24-year-old Russian Alexey Rozhkov: he started arson to save people from mobilization.
In order to compensate for Russian losses in the war against Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin called for partial mobilization – but this also increased unrest among the Russian population. Since then, dozens of cases of confirmed arson and attacks on Russian recruiting offices have accumulated – this is how the Russian population wanted to stall Putin’s mobilization.
One of them is 24-year-old Alexey Rozhkov, a former electronics store employee in Russia’s Sverdlovsk region. He attempted to set fire to a recruiting office just weeks after the invasion began. The independent Russian news service Mediazona spoke to Rozhkov about his reasons for serving time in prison and his decision to flee Russia.
In early March, two and a half weeks after Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine began, a recruiting office outside of Yekaterinburg caught fire, reports Russian online magazine Meduza. The flames from the fire would not have spread far, so a security guard and several traffic officers were able to quickly put out the fire – no one was injured.
Alexey Rozhkov was responsible for the arson: The police were able to arrest the 24-year-old a short time later on a nearby street. According to the police, Rozhkov tried to flee until officers threatened to shoot, reports Meduza. After the officers were able to grab Rozhkov, he is said to have confessed to his crime in the police vehicle.
With the arson, he wanted to save men from mobilization: “My contemporaries are dying in Ukraine like cannon fodder, and nobody cares.” Despite the arrest, one of the police officers reports that Rozhkov also asked to drive past the draft office because he wanted to see the success of his rescue operation.
And so Rozhkov also told Mediazona that he decided to set fire because he could not accept that conscripts were sent to war unknowingly: “I think I saved people, at least some, from certain death,” says Rozhkov.
But his act was not without consequences: Shortly after his arrest, Rozhkov was charged with attempted murder, because a security guard is said to have been working in the building of the recruitment office on the night of the incident. Two days after the crime, Rozhkov was finally taken into custody, where he remained for the next six months, according to Meduza.
In early September, the charge was reduced to attempted arson, allowing Rozhkov to be released. The 24-year-old was released mainly out of compassion: “The investigator who is working on my case is a fairly humane person and wanted me not to go to jail from the start. He sent me to pre-trial detention center for six months so I could understand what it’s like and I don’t want to go back,” Rozhkov said.
And with success: Rozhkov later pleaded guilty to his act and apologized for his attempted arson. But Rozhkov told Mediazona that he only did this because he was under pressure from his parents and his lawyer. He says: “Of course I don’t think what I did was right because the security guard could have been injured, but I still don’t think I did anything bad.”
After his court date was set, the 24-year-old decided to flee Russia – he just left a note to his mother explaining his decision. Eventually he realized that his case would lead to further investigations: “I would be convicted of a more serious crime, [like] terrorism. That would be inevitable,” Rozhkov told Mediazona.
To protect the volunteers, the intelligence service does not want to publish how he was able to leave Russia.