“Everybody out!” The case of Ruslan Zinin, the man who shot and nearly killed a draft officer in a small Russian town
Оля Ромашова
“Everybody out!” The case of Ruslan Zinin, the man who shot and nearly killed a draft officer in a small Russian town
13 April 2023, 14:08

Art by Arina Istomina / Mediazona

Around noon on September 26, 2022, Alexander Eliseev, the military draft officer of Ust-Ilimsk, a small town in southeastern Siberia, was addressing recruits in the auditorium of the enlistment office on Dekabristov Street. His speech was interrupted by one of the listeners—a young man in a camouflage suit rose from his seat and shouted: “We're gonna go home now!” Then he jumped out onto the stage where the officer was standing and fired a gun at him. Eliseev fell down, causing panic in the hall. Everyone rushed to the exit.

“After the shot, Eliseev fell to the floor and rolled over from side to side without saying anything. I did not see any traces of blood on his clothes or near him,”  the gunman said later at the interrogation. The shooter also fired two more shots at the officer: “At the time of the second and third shots, A.V. Eliseev was still moving, I did not help him and did not approach him at all.”

The camouflaged shooter turned out to be Ruslan Zinin, a 25-year-old hereditary lumber truck driver from Ust-Ilimsk. It was the first week of “partial” mobilisation, and for many in Russia he became an immediate hero. Astra reported “dozens of letters from readers offering to help the shooter's mother and asking her personal details.” In two days, according to Astra, strangers transferred more than 600,000 rubles to the woman.

State propaganda tried to portray Zinin as a madman who had fallen under the influence of foreign intelligence. “The Western intelligence services have such a concept—‘working with lunatics,’” wrote VGTRK correspondent Andrei Rudenko.

Mediazona studied the materials of the criminal case and tried to understand who Ruslan Zinin really was and what were the motives behind his actions.

Art by Arina Istomina / Mediazona

How Ruslan Zinin spent the day before the shooting at the military enlistment office

“Vasya isn't going anywhere.” Testimony of the shooter himself

“I have no bad habits. I do not use drugs, I do not smoke cigarettes and I do not drink alcohol. I only drink alcohol about once every six months, I drink only with friends or in company,” said Zinin during the first interrogation after his arrest.

If this is true, then the day before the shooting at the military registration and enlistment office, September 25, was an uncommon day for him.

On that day, Ruslan called his friend Leonid Kudrov, who invited him “for a drink of vodka.” The further development of events, based on Zinins words, is described in the interrogation protocol as follows: “He invited me to sit with our acquaintance <... > in a flat located <... > opposite the shop ‘Ust-Terem.’ In the same shop, we bought two 0.5-liter bottles of vodka of two different sorts, which we drank in the flat. We drank the alcohol between 4pm and 7pm. At around 8.30pm we were joined by a man <...> whom I did not know before. We drank with him literally one drink of vodka, after which I decided to walk home, since my state was far from sobriety. <... > Then I walked home, it was about 5 km, because I wanted to sober up on the way. I walked home from 7pm to 8pm, which was around 1am.”

During interrogation in October, Zinin specified that he “drank about 0.8 liters of vodka” that evening.

Anyway, leaving the car behind, he walked from his guests to his grandmother Nina Grigorievna Lebedeva, into whose flat he had moved about two weeks earlier after a quarrel with his mother.

“When I came home, I was met by my weeping grandmother,” Zinin recalled. She said Ruslan's cousin, 22-year-old Vasily Gurov, had received a summons.

“A week before receiving the news, we had discussed with Gurov that he would not want to be among those involved in combat operations. After the announcement of partial mobilisation, Gurov and I did not discuss his position and attitude towards it, but I assumed that he had not changed his mind and did not wish to be called up for military service at this time,”  the investigator recounted Zinin's testimony.

The same report quotes Ruslan's words about Gurov: “He and I have a close relationship because we grew up together” So, having heard about the summons, Zinin decided by all means to save his cousin from mobilization.

“I told my grandmother that Vasya wasn't going anywhere, then I packed my things and left the flat. All this was accompanied by my fantasies of how Gurov would be killed in Ukraine, with pictures of his dead body circulating on the Internet,” the investigator recorded.

At the interrogation, Zinin outlined his initial plan as follows: to go to the military enlistment office and persuade Gurov “not to enlist voluntarily.”

“If Gurov agreed to my terms, I would leave the military enlistment office,” he claimed. But if his cousin refused, Zinin was prepared to shoot into the air, “thereby causing a quarrel” and delaying his mobilization “for the duration of the turmoil.” “I reckoned at the time that after a couple of weeks they would stop mobilizing everyone indiscriminately according to fitness categories,” Ruslan told the investigator.

So, having left his grandmother “around 8.20pm,” Zinin went to a garage cooperative where he hid a rifle.

“I walked to the garage cooperative for about one hour and picked up the gun at around 9.30pm,” Zinin recounted. Then, with the sawn-off rifle in his backpack, he walked to his Toyota Raum, which he parked near a small shop called Ust-Terem, “before the party with a friend.”

At half past two in the morning, he reached his car and went to bed. “During the night I turned on the engine and the heater twice to warm up the temperature in the car, after which I continued to sleep,” Ruslan told the investigator.

Around eight in the morning, he woke up and called Vasily Gurov who didn't answer the phone. Then he the cousin's mother, Svetlana Zobnina. Zinin “strongly advised her not to let her son go anywhere,” but she replied that “evading service” was a criminal offense. “I strongly disagreed,” Zinin noted during questioning. Svetlana told him that Vasily was asleep because he got drunk the night before, and that she was “already packing a bag for mobilization.”

Zinin dialed his cousin a few more times without success and sat in his car until 11:30am—read the news and had a chocolate bar and water for breakfast. “By this time I had already formed a follow-up plan at the recruitment office,” he admitted.

Zinin put the sawn-off rifle and “a one-and-a-half liter bottle of oil and petrol mix for a chainsaw, which had previously been in the car,” in his backpack, crossed the street and hid his traveling bag with the car keys, jeans and jacket among the trees—so that later he could “change, hide for a while, pass his car to relatives and then give himself up to the police.” He left his phone in the car.

At about 11:50am he was at the military registration and enlistment office. No one searched Zinin at the entrance. “You could say that I walked freely with a rifle in my backpack into the premises of the military enlistment office,” he told the interrogators. Ruslan went up to the first floor, where about fifty people were “waiting for documents.” Among them was also the draft officer Alexander Eliseev—at first he was wearing plain clothes, but after a while he changed into his uniform and invited recruits to the assembly hall on the fourth floor, promising to answer questions about the mobilisation.

In the end, Zinin didn't get a chance to meet Gurov, so he went after the draft officer.

Kin. Testimony of Svetlana Zobnina and her son Vasily Gurov, whom Zinin wanted to save from mobilization

On the morning of September 25, Svetlana Zobnina, 40, went with her husband and mother to the cemetery to visit her father's grave. As Svetlana told the investigator, from there, everyone went to their family house. Around 3pm an officer of the military registration and enlistment office knocked on the door with a summons for her son Vasil Gurov, who had been living separately for a year. He was summoned the next day by 3pm.

Zobnina called Vasiliy and asked what to do with the summons. He said to take it and sign on the stub. Svetlana did so, her son arrived 15 minutes later. Everyone sat down at the table.

The mother and grandmother cried, but Vasiliy “insisted that he wanted to join the Russian armed forces himself, to take part in the special operation in Ukraine, and assured everyone that he would be fine and there was no reason to worry.”

According to Zobnina, she felt “heartbroken” that her son had made such a decision, but supported him anyway. Vasily “started to pack for home on a positive note” and gave his grandmother a lift on his way home. “As far as I know, after the visit to our home V.Y. Gurov was going to meet with friends to ‘celebrate his departure,’” the report states Svetlana's words.

She received a text message about a missed call from her son around 4:30 in the morning and him called back. Vasily said that he was drinking with friends and that he was fine.

The next day, September 26, around nine o'clock in the morning, Svetlana received a call from her nephew Ruslan Zinin. He asked why Vasiliy was not picking up the phone and what time he had the summons for. He then added that he would also come to the military enlistment office. Zobnina replied that her son had been “drinking alcohol with friends all night and was now taking a nap.” The record of her interrogation quotes this conversation as follows:

“I immediately thought that R.A. Zinin was also going to take part in the mobilization and go to the special operation as a volunteer, in connection with which I started explaining that he might not be taken because of his asthma. R.A. Zinin replied to me that both healthy and sick people are being killed there. I cried because I took it personally. I was already nervous and worried, but R.A. Zinin was still ‘adding fuel to the fire.’ I asked him why he was saying that. Zinin answered me: ‘Sveta, come down from the sky, that's it, come on, bye, this is our last conversation.’ I took Zinin's words as Zinin's wish to volunteer.”

After that Svetlana called Ruslan's mother, “to once again get everything Gurov needed to go to Ukraine,” and told her that Ruslan was also going to the war. In this conversation his mother allegedly recalled that the day before he had “returned home in an inadequate state,” he did not smell of alcohol, but “his eyes were ‘glassy,’ ‘scared,’ ‘frantic.’”

According to Zobnina, at his grandmother Nina Lebedeva's place, upon learning of the summons that came to Gurov, Zinin started shouting: “No one is going to serve! Why is this even necessary?! Let's break Vasya's legs, hide him in the basement with his mother.” He also threatened to kill Eliseev, but his grandmother hardly knew who he was, Svetlana added during the interrogation.

“N.G. Lebedeva, naturally, was frightened by R.A. Zinin's behavior, which forced her to lock herself in her room, but R.A. Zinin did not leave her alone, asking her to listen to him. Lebedeva N.G. could not calm down R.A. Zinin in any way, so she decided to go to her friend's house for the night in her nightdress, because she was running away from home under stress,” the investigator wrote in the report.

According to Zobnina, the woman did not return to her flat until 9am, when Zinin was no longer there.

She added that Lebedeva, who had sheltered Ruslan, had previously complained “about Ruslan's abrupt change of mood, about domestic problems, misunderstandings, constant requests for money, as well as Ruslan's absence at night.” Svetlana explained that the young man was “very squeamish, irascible, harsh in his utterances” and that his own mother had kicked him out of the house, because he was unemployed.

“The conversation with R.A. Zinin and N.G. Lebedeva did not come together in my mind, I was not alerted to these conversations, why, I do not know,” as if making excuses, Zobnina told the investigator.

At 10:50 Zobnina received another text message about a missed call from her son. She called back. A drunken Vasiliy had broken the key and could not get home. Zobnina and her husband brought him a spare key and “put their son to bed”. Then Zobnina went out to the front door and locked it from outside because she was afraid that Gurov V.Y. would fall asleep, and she would not be able to reach him, but he had to arrive at the enlistment office by 3pm.”

In the afternoon, Svetlana and her husband stopped by her mother's house “to discuss together what else had to be bought for Gurov’s trip.” The relatives once again recalled Ruslan's strange behavior the day before and agreed that “he was simply drunk.” They also decided not to stop Ruslan's Zinin in his desire to pay his debt to the motherland. However, just in case, Zobnina called Zinin's mother Marina, although they “have not spoken to each other for many years”, reasoning that she “should know about her son's decision”.

In the afternoon, Svetlana saw the news about the shooting at the military enlistment office on Whatsapp. “At that moment, the name Rusia popped in my head, so I decided to call R.A. Zinin and find out if he was doing well, but his number was unavailable,” she recalled.

The investigator asked why Zinin was trying to save her son from being mobilized. “I do not know why R.A. Zinin says that. He does not communicate with V.Y. Gurov at all. R.A. Zinin has repeatedly said that my family is not his,” Zobnina claimed.

During the same interrogation, she described Zinin as “psychotic” and said that he had been “bullied since childhood by his older brother and by his mother's family”.

Art by Arina Istomina / Mediazona

* * *

Vasily Gurov, a 21-year-old third-year student at the Ust-Ilimsk branch of Baikal State University, also tried to distance himself from his cousin in his testimony. He stressed that he had had little contact with Zinin.

“It is difficult for me to characterize R.A. Zinin, because I wasn't too eager to communicate with him, the circumstances of R.A. Zinin's life are of absolutely no interest to me,”  he told the investigator. He and Ruslan often met as children at his grandmother's house, but they never became friends because, according to Gurov, “ever since childhood Ruslan Zinin was psychotic, it was more than obvious in his frequent and abrupt mood swings” over trivial matters.

In late August, Zinin twice made a scene with him over two different girls who were Gurov's friends on the social network VKontakte. In both cases, his cousin's suspicions were far-fetched, Vasiliy claimed.

In the report of Gurov’s interrogation about the evening of September 25, Zinin's behavior is described according to Nina Lebedeva's recollections—and almost in the same terms as in the testimony of Zobnina: allegedly Zinin “came to his grandmother's house in a strange state, he did not smell of alcohol, but his eyes were ‘glassy’ and ‘crazy,’ R. Zinin behaved inappropriately and said incoherent phrases about my service life.”

Gurov only learned about the shooting at the enlistment office the next day at about three o'clock when his parents woke him up—he had missed Zinin's morning calls because he was “sound asleep and unresponsive to external stimuli,” and when he woke up, he “still was not thinking straight because of his bad hangover.”

Like Svetlana Zobnina, the investigator asked Gurov why Zinin explained his attack on the military commander by his desire to save him from mobilization. Vasily could not answer, but decided to tell that while sitting in the police station, he “monitored” Ruslan's VKontakte and noticed two entries. On August 22, Zinin posted a quote from the singer Viktor Tsoi: “Death is worth living. And love is worth waiting for.” On August 29 he posted “a film about what people say before they die.”

“I believe that those who point out that we did not communicate are mistaken," Zinin said during further questioning as a defendant. “In September 2022 alone, we met, perhaps, two times. The fate of Gurov V. was dear to me.”

Beer, swear, clap, drill. What happened at the military enlistment office in Ust-Ilimsk on September 26

Eyewitnesses. Testimony of a mobilized tractor driver, a woman who filmed the shooting on her phone, and an assembler who came to the military enlistment office with his friends

Vladimir Yaroslavtsev, a tractor driver, 40, and two of his colleagues received summonses right at their logging site. They all went to the military registration and enlistment office, accompanied by Yaroslavtsev's father-in-law, “as a support group.”

The men handed in their summonses and military cards “in the window of office 204” on the first floor and waited to be called for. The corridor was crowded and noisy. Around 12:00, a colonel in uniform (obviously, Eliseev) appeared in the corridor and invited the conscripts to the fourth floor to the assembly hall, “so that the clamor that stood on the floor would calm down and not interfere with the work of the enlistment office staff.” According to Yaroslavtsev, about 25 people followed the military officer.

“People were discussing everyday problems, some were talking about their families, some were talking about work, I did not hear any negative statements about the political situation in the country,” said the tractor driver.

In the auditorium, the military commissar took the podium, introduced himself and “started telling his biography, after which those present became indignant, asking to speak about the substance of the draft, about the property status of conscripts.”

“The indignation was expressed in disgruntled remarks with an appropriate intonation,” Yaroslavtsev specified. According to him, the biggest indignation was demonstrated by a dark-haired young woman, who “behaved aggressively, tried to raise political debates, contradicted the military policeman, and was actively gesticulating”. The young man who was sitting next to her was “pulling the young woman by the arms, trying to calm her down”.

A man with blond hair in a “camouflage suit”—it was Zinin—“started shouting remarks about mortgage payments, the man was rather emotional, aggressive”, Yaroslavtsev recalled. “I didn't pay much attention to the others present, because everyone else behaved calmly,”  the tractor driver said at the interrogation.

One of his colleagues, Maxim Mityukov, left the room, saying “he did not want to listen to some teenagers.” Yaroslavtsev got distracted by a message from his wife, and then he heard someone shout: “We're gonna go home now!” He looked up and saw Zinin standing on the stage about two meters from the military commander, pointing a gun at him.

“The shot landed in the commissioner's lumbar region on the right.” Panic broke out in the audience, Eliseev “weakened and quietly began to sink to the floor”. The shooter turned sharply towards the hall, while pointing the barrel of the gun roughly in the direction where Yaroslavtsev was. The tractor driver got scared, fell to the floor face down. Yaroslavtsev heard a second shot, then a shout: “Run!” He got to his feet and rushed to the exit.

However, Yaroslavtsev remained standing outside the enlistment office. “I didn't want to leave there because my documents were there and I wanted to know my future fate,” he explained.

* * *

Anastasia Shuvalova, a 24-year-old eyebrow master, came to the enlistment office with her acquaintance, 26-year-old Kirill Fedorko, and his mother. “There were different people there, many of them intoxicated. Someone was even drinking alcohol on the street near the enlistment office,” the woman remarked during questioning.

At the invitation of the enlistment officer, Shuvalova, Fedorko and his mother went up to the assembly hall. “When we sat in the assembly hall, the atmosphere was tense, the people were scared, frightened of the impending mobilization, of the unknown,” she recalled.

According to Anastasia, “the enlistment officer behaved very calmly, correctly, answered questions, he did not provoke any conflicts with his behavior, on the contrary, he tried to calm people down.”

At one point, Eliseev started to talk about his service, and some of the audience, including Fedorko and his mother, got bored and left the hall, while she stayed to listen to the officer. Anastasia recorded some of his answers on her phone. At the time of the first shot, her camera was on.

“I was looking at my phone camera at that moment. At first, I saw everything happening on my phone screen, I heard a pop, and then I already saw movement on my right side,” she recounted. “The clap was loud, there was only one shot. When I started to look in the direction of the clap, I saw that the military commander was gone. Where he had gone, I don't know. I suppose he had fallen down. At that time I saw that by the table on the stage was a guy in light camouflage. I did not see how he got to the stage. There was also a small cloud around this guy. In his hands was an object that looked like a sawn-off rifle.”

Shuvalova jumped out of the hall and rushed outside. “People were in a panic, they were running out of the building, some even lost their shoes,” she said. According to the woman, she thought to the last that “there was some kind of joke, a drill”.

Then Shuvalova saw a bloodied military commander being carried out of the building.

“I thought it was him being smeared, I thought it was all some kind of joke. When they loaded the draft officer into the ambulance, they moved him on the count of one, two, three. I just jokingly commented on that: one, two, three, dead. I didn't realize until the end that it was really a shooting and that the officer was wounded,” she explained to the investigator.

Art by Arina Istomina / Mediazona

Shuvalova sent the video to three of her friends and her husband, but did not post it online, she insisted. Shuvalova “continued to stand outside the enlistment office, when a police officer shouted the question: ‘Who filmed the video?’ I raised my hand, after which I was taken to the police station and then to the investigation department.”

Shuvalova's behavior probably seemed suspicious to the investigation: during additional interrogation, Zinin was asked if he knew the girl.

“I had no arrangement with her, I don't know why she was filming,” he replied.

* * *

Denis Gafitulin, a 22-year-old assembler, came to the military enlistment office to support his friends who had received summonses. “We sat on the first floor for about an hour. There was constant movement of people, it was noisy, some of those present even drank beer,” he told the interrogation.

Around noon, the enlistment officer appeared in the corridor, saying that those gathered “were making a lot of noise, thus disturbing the work of the military registration and enlistment office staff.” He invited everyone to the assembly hall.

“There were questions from the audience, some of them were rude. Some of those present were aggressive, but not because of the officer, rather because of the situation,” Gafitulin explained. Some swore, “but not at the officer, just as a part of their speaking manner,” he added.

“The enlisment officer was asked questions, but he didn't answer them,” the assembler said. “He behaved calmly, he did not provoke any conflicts. He was asked about loans, other commitments, children and many other social issues. But the officer said that he would get to those questions, he would talk about the situation, about his military duty.”

Zinin, according to Gafitulin's recollection, “commented on what was happening with gusto, on emotion, when the officer spoke,”  and then suddenly jumped on stage.

“Everything happened very quickly and unexpectedly. The guy immediately pointed the gun in the direction of the officer. The people did not understand anything, no one took any action. The officer also remained in his place, standing to the guy's right, and started to turn to him. That's when the guy said that no one is going anywhere, everyone will just return home—and at in that very moment he took the shot. The officer went straight down.”

Gafitulin ran out into the street. “At first I didn't even understand that something serious happened, I thought it was a joke, like a drill,” he confessed.

What Ruslan Zinin himself said about the shooting at the enlistment office

Aftert Zinin couldn't find Gurov at the enlistment office, he decided not to wait for his cousin and went up to the assembly hall. He sat to the left of the entrance.

“Eliseev started making his speech about his personal achievements, without answering the pressing issues of the mobilisation. This caused some people to stand up and leave, making some free space in the left row along the wall closer to the platform where Eliseev was standing. I moved closer to Eliseev, so he could see and hear me. I put a backpack with the sawed-off rifle next to me”, he said during the interrogation.

At one point, as Zinin said, the officer “began to say that those present were themselves to blame for having ‘taken up loans,’ ‘borne children,’ etc.”

“Eliseev A.V. said that ‘the military enlistment office has nothing to do with it’ to the questions of those present about how to provide for their children, pay mortgages and loans. All this was voiced in an extremely indifferent manner”, he said at the interrogation.

Hearing this, Zinin “felt anger towards A.V. Eliseev and wanted to inflict bodily harm on him in order to make him feel physical pain and apologize for his words,” the investigator recorded.

The young man opened his backpack and, without taking out his weapon, inserted a cartridge into the chamber: “At this point, some man present asked: ‘Where are we going?’ To which I pulled the sawed-off rifle from my rucksack, then stood up sharply from my seat and shouted: ‘We're gonna go home now!’”

He jumped onto the stage and shot the enlisment officer, who fell down.

“I immediately turned to those present and said that I did not plan to shoot any of them. <... > There was only one woman left lying on the floor in the auditorium whom I approached and told to run out. She ran out in a state of hysteria,” the gunman continued.

He shot Yeliseyev two more times without aiming, “from the hip,” from a distance of two or three meters. He spilled a mixture of petrol and oil in several places in the hall and set it on fire. There was nothing to burn in the reinforced concrete building of the military enlistment office, Zinin explained to the investigator.

“I set the building on fire so that the fire brigade would arrive and everyone would evacuate the military enlistment office, as I had planned in advance. I didn't plan to kill Eliseev with fire, I didn't pour fuel on him, I didn't come close to him, I didn't look if he's alive or not”, he said.

Art by Arina Istomina / Mediazona

During interrogations, Zinin confessed that he was afraid of reprisals by drunken conscripts who he thought might break into the assembly hall. He ran to the emergency exit, knocked out the door to the fire escape with his shoulder and descended to the first floor, but the grate downstairs was locked, and the gunman could not get out.

The tractor driver, Yaroslavtsev, watched him from outside. “I saw a man on the fire escape who had previously been shooting. < ... > The man began to descend in an accelerated step. As the fire escape was enclosed by a metal structure with a gap, I saw that the man in question continued to have a weapon in both hands,” he recalled.

Zinin shouted that he was surrendering and asked to call the police. When the riot policemen arrived, he threw the sawed-off through the bars at their request. He was detained.

During interrogation, Zinin specified that he “acted solely on his own initiative.”

Recollections of the National Guard officer Stolyarov, who tied Zinin's hands with his belt

Lieutenant Anatoly Stolyarov, deputy company commander at the Ust-Ilimsk unit of extra-departmental security service of the National Guard, said during questioning that the signal about the shooting at the enlistment office was received at 12:24.

He heard what had happened over the radio in his office and immediately went down to the first floor of the department, together with junior lieutenant Vladimir Masloboyev. Two people in civilian clothes were already there, in a state of shock and panic—they ran from the enlistment office.

Stolyarov and Masloboyev ran towards the enlistment office, equipping themselved on the go. The lieutenant says in his testimony what they saw there: “There was a man in civilian clothes standing near the emergency exit. The man was drunk and trying to talk to the shooter. <...> The shooter did not answer him. The front side of the emergency exit shaft is a wall of wide bars. There was a door at the bottom, but it was locked. There was no way out from inside. The gunman was visible, he was at the bottom of the emergency exit, wearing a sand-coloured camouflage suit. He was holding some kind of elongated object. I demanded a civilian man, who was near the emergency exit, would go to safety. The man did not immediately respond to my demand, but then he left. I shouted to the shooter to drop his gun. The shooter < ... > shouted to me that he had a loaded gun. < ... > I understood that Zinin was saying that if the gun was thrown, it might go off. < ... > I repeatedly told Zinin to throw the gun, and he threw it in front of him through the bars. < ... > I ordered him to lie down on the floor. Zinin compiled and laid down. Masloboyev and I then ran up to the bars and ordered him to put his hands through the bars towards us. We pulled Zinin's arms out in front of us. At that time, criminal investigator Novruzov Eduard ran up to us. Masloboyev held Zinin by one hand and Novruzov by the other. At that time I took off my belt and, using it as a field substitute, tied Zinin's hands with the belt.”

The report on the use of physical force and special means by Lieutenant Stolyarov states that the shooter tried to escape from the enlistment office building, but, “having descended the evacuation stairs, <...> he could not get out, as the exit on the first floor was barred and locked.”

The same document states that Zinin was detained “with signs of alcohol intoxication.”

In large letters in the detention report he wrote: “I do not agree with the detention, please leave me free, I will not hide from the investigation.”

In the video, which quickly appeared on the Telegram channel Baza, Ruslan knelt down and spelled out his surname in front of the camera: “Zinin. I-n-i-n.”

The shooter and his target

What is known about military commissar Eliseev and what Ruslan Zinin thought about him

This year, Aleksandr Eliseev will turn 59 years old, more than 20 of which he served as an officer. He did his mandatory military service on the border with Afghanistan, at least according to the Ust-Ilimsk Timber Industry Bulletin. In 1988, Eliseev graduated from the Voroshilov Higher Border Military and Political School of the KGB; in the early 2000s, he trained at the Border Service Academy.

Eliseev ran in local elections four times, including a race for the seat of the mayor of Ust-Ilimsk in 2015, on behalf of the Patriots of Russia party (he recieved less than 3% of the vote). According to the data on the candidate, Eliseev had a break in his military career: in 2009 he was nominated to the City Duma as the director of Katanga-Les LLC, and only starting from 2013 he listed the military registration and enlistment office as his place of work.

Eliseev has a wife and two daughters. In March 2022, he spoke to Ust-Ilimsk students and explained to them “the history, the reasons for the conflict and the need for the special operation” in Ukraine.

Shortly before the shooting at the enlistment office, he told a local TV channel that there were plans to mobilize 5,000 people in the Irkutsk region, 300 of them in Ust-Ilimsk.

Ruslan Zinin said at the first interrogation that he knew Eliseev as a military commissar since he was 14 years old. The young man, who suffered from asthma, was issued a certificate of registration marked “fit with minor restrictions,” and at 18 a medical commission confirmed his diagnosis.

In 2016, Ruslan, 19, was due to undergo another examination, but he broke his arm, was hospitalized and failed to show up for his summons. According to Zinin, the draft officer himself called him afterward, agreed that the reason for failing to appear was valid, and promised to reschedule the summons. But when the young man was discharged, he learned from the police that an administrative case had been initiated against him. He then came to the conclusion that Eliseev was an “unprincipled careerist, who does not have any human convictions and only follows his working principles,” the report said.

Responding to the investigator's questions about his relationship with the military commissar, Zinin recounted what he had heard from a friend whose acquaintance works at the military enlistment office: Eliseev allegedly “personally receives a large reward in cash equivalent for each combat unit called up and sent to the combat zone” during the mobilization.

In a letter from the pre-trial detention centre, Zinin apologized to the wounded military commander: “I ask you to help me publicly convey my condolences to the injured Yeliseyev, his relatives and friends, for their suffering. < ... > I also apologize to everyone who was frightened by my actions. I regret what I did and ask for your understanding.”

In another letter, he described the shooting as “the consequence of fatal mistakes and a tragic coincidence.”

“Going in there, I didn't believe a hand would be raised against a man, even a very bad one. This character had the brains and nerve to mock people who were on their way to die. I was sober, I remember everything relatively well, but I was clearly not myself. I was shaking all over, it had never happened before. I know in my right mind that I should have punched him in the face hard, but I did what I did,” he said.

During the first interrogation, Zinin said that he wanted to make the draft officer “answer for his words,” to cause him “pain and bodily harm,” but not to kill him. Later, he was no longer able to “explain the motives and purpose of the shooting—the events in question occurred spontaneously,” and claimed that he “did not believe that the gun would fire at all.”

Zinin now attributed his initial testimony to pressure from the investigator: “I was led to this by the investigator, claiming it was illogical, that I had shot at a man and did not want to cause him bodily harm, and so I agreed with the investigator.”

“All in all, we thought it was some kind of state of affect,” an acquaintance of Zinin's family told Mediazona. “Still, the forensic psychiatric examination did not confirm it. There is also a long-term psychotraumatic factor, when, say, he was under stress for several months. Well, this is also very difficult to prove, but he was under stress because he had lost his job the day before. Before that, when he was working, he had an accident. His car was in the shop for two months, so he was in a stressful state. Maybe it all added up.”

Ruslan Zinin about himself and his motives

Under interrogation, Zinin said he was “born into a full, prosperous family.” His parents divorced when the boy was four, and now both have new families. In seventh grade, Ruslan had to be transferred to another school because of a “conflict with classmates.”

Art by Arina Istomina / Mediazona

“I have strong principles, so my relationships with females are complicated, and about six months ago I broke up with my next girlfriend,” he told the investigator.

After ninth grade, Zinin enrolled at the Ust-Ilimsk Technical School for Forestry Technology and Services and learned how to repair cars. He worked as a lumber truck driver, switching from one local firm to another “for various reasons which had nothing to do with me, such as bankruptcy and late payment of wages.”

“Before prison I worked on lumber trucks for almost five years, every shift I had to sleep in the cab, hugging the gear lever, or even lying on the steering wheel, bent over in half. Not used to the inconvenience, in general,”  he wrote from the detention centre.

Zinin maintained a Telegram channel Fairy Taiga about his work on lumber trucks, which he seemed to genuinely enjoy. He proudly wrote that both his father and grandfather who also worked as lumber truck drivers. In September, Ruslan published two old videos from the family archive—footage shot on a film camera of lumber trucks and a snow-covered road. “Strong stuff, of course. Thanks to my father for this unique footage, for instilling in me since childhood a passion for music, for work, for life,” he wrote.

For the last year before his arrest, Zinin didn't work and lived on his savings. “A few months before the SMO started, I lost my job. Small firms like mine began to go under due to the crisis in the industry, the multiple increase in the cost of spare parts, and most importantly, the introduction of QR codes on forest products. It was such a kick in the teeth that not many foresters have recovered from it. So my company had to close down. < ... > Apparently, everything is done so that men are left with only one option to earn money—compensation for the coffin. All in all, pure madness,” he wrote in a letter from the detention centre.

However, Zinin several times stressed that his motives were private and not political: “I did not plan to disrupt the mobilization of other people to be mobilized. I was only interested in my brother Gurov.”

In other letters, he explained his fear for his cousin in more detail. “I knew that he was a military driver by profession, like myself, and I knew for certain that military drivers are suicide bombers, so I wasted no time in thinking, seeing my grandmother meet me at home in tears, with the words that my brother was leaving for the war as early as tomorrow. My protest was strongly rebuffed by my family, who said the alternative was prison. They were intimidated. Then I realised that I could only count on myself,” Ruslan wrote.

Zinin also mentioned that he still has nightmares about the posthumous photograph of his schoolmate Daniil Trofimov who died in the war, which has hit the internet. “Having imagined for a moment that I would ever, God forbid, have to see my own family member like that, I realised that I couldn't go on living, knowing that I had done nothing to prevent this and was ready to throw myself under a tank, barehanded. I have three of them. Just to avoid seeing the grief and tears of my relatives,” Zinin reasoned.

Trofimov was conscripted in November 2021 and died in the first weeks of the full-scale invasion. A video showing a Ukrainian soldier reading out Trofimov's name and initials on a chevron removed from a corpse appeared as early as 9 March. “Mama, come and get him,” the Ukrainian said on camera.

At the same time, the Ust-Ilimsk town group posted an announcement about the soldier's memorial service in the summer. Zinin commented on the post at the time: “He died back in March, why are they only burying him now? Are the bodies really not given out for months?” One of the users replied to him: “His mother only found him now. That's why it's taking so long.”

“It's a nightmare,” Ruslan concluded. “No one needs them there in that army except their mothers.”

Later in the interrogation he said that Trofimov's body was “brought to Ust-Ilimsk by his mother, herself, at her own expense, they couldn't even find him,” and during the memorial service in the town square Eliseev “ran and yelled at people not to film, because ‘everything is classified, you will have problems.’”

“He never apologized to [Torfimov's] mother, such a hero. Not only that, but the boy served three months and turned out to be a contract serviceman, he was 18,” said Ruslan. “I still think the servicemen drove him to the grave—and then laughed to his mother's face.”

Trofimov was buried on June 15 . Svetlana Zobnina's testimony states that when she thought Ruslan had decided to volunteer for the war, she called his mother, who said that since July her son “seemed to have become a totally different person.”

Editor: Dmitry Tkachev

Translator: Darya Fomina

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