Wanted in Russia. Mediazona scraped and analyzed the entire Ministry of Internal Affairs’ wanted database—and developed a user‑friendly search tool
Wanted in Russia. Mediazona scraped and analyzed the entire Ministry of Internal Affairs’ wanted database—and developed a user‑friendly search tool
13 February 2024, 10:06

Art: Anastasia Kraynyuk / Mediazona

We have collated all the wanted notices from the database on the Ministry of Internal Affairs website and discovered that Russia is actively seeking not only dozens of European politicians and officials on criminal charges, but also one head of state—Kaja Kallas, the Estonian Prime Minister. Our findings also include numerous high-ranking Ukrainian military officials and hundreds of individuals whom investigators label as “foreign mercenaries” in the ranks of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. For anyone curious, we’ve included a user-friendly database search function, allowing you to look up yourself, a namesake, or anyone else.

The wanted database. Key findings:
  • The Investigative Committee is initiating numerous cases against officials and politicians from Eastern Europe who made decisions regarding the demolition of Soviet monuments (or approved their dismantling);
  • As a result, two-thirds of the Latvian parliament deputies, city council members from Riga, Klaipeda, Lutsk, and Rivne have ended up on the wanted list;
  • Russia has, for the first time, issued wanted notices not just for several ministers in the Baltic states, but also for the head of another state—the Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas;
  • One of the most notable groups of foreigners in the database are Ukrainian military personnel;
  • At least 396 individuals are being sought as “foreign mercenaries” (and some of these are identified merely from posts in Telegram channels);
  • The Ministry of Internal Affairs database contains more than 96,000 wanted notices. You can explore them yourself—we’ve created a user-friendly search function.

In late 2020, a year and a half before the invasion of Ukraine, Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Investigative Committee, established a special department for “denazification.” According to his plan, employees of this department were tasked with investigating crimes related to the “rehabilitation of Nazism” and “distortion of history.” In a formal interview with RIA Novosti, a state news agency, Bastrykin described this as a forced measure “in the context of the ongoing information war” and “attempts to rehabilitate Nazism both within our country and abroad.”

Initially, the unit did not play any noticeable role—it was involved in searching for individuals who posted photos of Adolf Hitler on the “Immortal Regiment” website, or unsuccessfully attempted to classify the demolition of a 1937 airport terminal in Yekaterinburg as “rehabilitation of Nazism.” Soon, the department shifted its focus to historical research: investigators across Russia collected materials and interviewed surviving World War II veterans, then demanded courts to recognize the mass murders committed by the German army as “genocide of the Soviet people.”

Everything changed with the start of the war in Ukraine: “denazification” became one of the pretexts for the invasion, and Bastrykin’s department quickly became overwhelmed with work. By March 2022, for example, there was a case against Ukrainian journalist Dmitry Gordon, and press releases about fighting Nazism started appearing on the department’s Telegram channel nearly every week. Another political project of Bastrykin’s was revived: the department for investigating the shelling of Donbas created in 2014.

After examining the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ wanted database, Mediazona discovered that the result of these departments’ work was hundreds of criminal cases against foreigners who are unlikely to ever visit Russia. Among them are Ukrainian military personnel, soldiers of the International Legion of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, as well as European politicians and officials who “rehabilitate Nazism” by deciding to dismantle Soviet monuments.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs database

If an investigator believes that an accused has fled from justice, such a person is declared wanted. The Ministry of Internal Affairs maintains the wanted database—the ministry does not disclose the details of how it is organized, but it has a public service that allows checking if someone is on the list—but only if the search occurs “in the established order using mass media.”

We have collected and analyzed all the wanted notices available on the ministry website—by the beginning of February, 96,752 individuals were sought in connection to criminal cases, and another 41,535 as missing persons.

Wanted in Russia, explained

In Russia, there are several ways of declaring a person wanted.

The most basic is the local level (mostly it is being used in the Moscow region), which involves searching for a person within the territory of a single region of Russia. This is followed by the federal (across the whole country) and interstate searches (CIS countries); effectively, they are equivalent to each other.

If a person is accused of a crime for which the maximum penalty exceeds three years in prison, they can be declared wanted internationally—then, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs will contact Interpol. However, Interpol has repeatedly refused to assist Russian colleagues in cases that are clearly political. Nevertheless, this does not prevent Russian law enforcement from directly approaching a specific country with a request for the extradition of the wanted person.

Moreover, in Russia, an accused person can be arrested in absentia. If the crime is classified as grave or especially grave (punishable by more than five years in prison), the trial can also be conducted in absentia.

Wanted notices do not appear in the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ public database immediately. For example, Ruslan Leviev, the founder of the Conflict Intelligence Team, was declared wanted on a federal level in early May 2022. A week later, the search was escalated to international, but his notice only appeared on the Ministry of Internal Affairs website in early June.

Call Moscow. Who’s after the famous foreigners

The wanted notices do not specify under which article the person is being pursued—making it nearly impossible to distinguish political cases from the rest.

We decided to investigate how foreigners are being declared wanted in Russia, and found that almost all notices are filed against citizens of Russia or former USSR countries—the rest of the countries account for only 2% of the total number of wanted notices. And a quarter of this small number is attributed to Moscow’s police departments: 10 district offices and the city administration at Petrovka, 38. It is through these administrations that many high-profile suspects in political cases have been declared wanted.

For instance, if you encounter the President of the International Criminal Court, Piotr Hofmański, who issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin, you should contact the police department of the Eastern Administrative District of Moscow. Andy Stone, the press secretary of Meta, who was arrested in absentia on charges of aiding terrorism, is sought by the Central Administrative District police department. And the North-Eastern Administration of Moscow police was tasked with apprehending three Lithuanian judges—who, according to the Investigative Committee, delivered a “deliberately unjust verdict” in 2019 on the case of the storming of the Vilnius TV tower in 1991: the judges found 67 people, including the former USSR Minister of Defense Dmitry Yazov, guilty of crimes against humanity.

Focusing on the Moscow Ministry of Internal Affairs departments, we discovered wanted notices for more than 700 foreigners who are unlikely ever to be in Russia, but are nevertheless under investigation here for clearly political motives.

Ukrainians wanted. From Debaltseve veterans to TV hosts and a farmer

The majority of foreigners targeted by Moscow’s police departments are Ukrainians—we identified at least 176 individuals pursued in absentia for various reasons including participation in the war, connections to Ukrainian authorities, or public statements. 

The Investigative Committee’s military department, shifting from remote to field operations, is responsible for many in absentia cases tied to combat. Alexander Bastrykin, the Committee’s head, frequently visits Donetsk in military attire to oversee operations.

Notably, some prosecutions stem from incidents predating the 2022 invasion. For instance, in summer of 2022, the Basmanny Court of Moscow issued an in absentia arrest for Captian Andriy Yanchenko, a Euromaidan activist and former battalion commander in Donbas during 2014–2015, for actions including the Debaltseve evacuation. Despite resigning from the military in 2015 and transitioning to a civil role, Yanchenko was accused seven years later of employing banned warfare tactics and committing genocide.

Russia has targeted a wide array of Ukrainian figures, including three former Ministers of Defence (Mykhailo Koval, Stepan Poltorak, Andriy Zagorodnyuk), two ex-chiefs of the Armed Forces (Mykhailo Kutsyn, Ruslan Khomchak), and several generals, former parliament members, and officials for their roles in the Anti-Terrorist Operation in Donbas. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the now former head of the Armed Forces, was declared wanted in May 2023 and shortly thereafter, arrested in absentia for alleged war crimes.

The Investigative Committee often reports on cases against Ukrainian military commanders, but that’s not all. For example, in October 2023 the investigators issued an “arrest in absentia” for a farmer who recorded a video address to President Zelensky with the words “Vova, fuck them up!”

Prior to this, the Basmanny Court of Moscow issued an in absentia verdict against TV host Masha Efrosinina for posts on Instagram, and three more Ukrainian TV hosts—Nataliia Moseichuk, Yanina Sokolova, and Fakhruddin Sharafmal—were arrested in absentia.

Russian investigations are not limited by Ukrainian figures alone but also include foreigners accused of serving as “mercenaries” for the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

The Rybar Legion. Investigators on the lookout for foreign mercenaries

Fighters from the International Legion and other foreign units of the Ukrainian army represent a separate big category of foreigners sought by the Russian authorities.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Vladimir Putin, with Alexander Bastrykin closely following, often discuss “foreign mercenaries” in speeches. Bastrykin regularly takes reports on investigations against these individuals, with a report in early February stating investigations against 593 foreigners from 46 countries.

We have been able to identify 396 persons from 36 countries in the wanted database sought for “mercenary” activities, a discrepancy with the Investigative Committee’s higher figure, possibly due to unlisted individuals or unidentified suspects.

The largest groups include 100 Georgians, likely from the Georgian Legion, 93 from the United Kingdom, and 61 Belarusians, possibly associated with the Kastuś Kalinoŭski Regiment.

The method of listing these individuals soon became apparent. In April 2022, Rybar, a pro-Kremlin Telegram channel created by a former employee of the Russian Ministry of Defence’s press service, published a picture with statistics on foreign mercenaries in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, claiming 635 foreigners from 47 countries were involved.

Two days later, the Investigative Committee echoed these figures, mentioning “almost 600 [foreign] citizens who have arrived in Ukraine from 47 countries,” only to be forced to adjust the country count to 46 later due to a Russian citizen being mistakenly included. Clearly, there was a connection with the Rybar list. 

Rybar later claimed to have sourced its list from hacked communications of Mykolaiv’s regional head, Vitalii Kim, providing names of each individual. However, only 257 from the list matched those in the Russian search, with detailed data for each but photographs for only 38.

Mediazona was unable to trace the origin of Rybar’s “mercenary list.” It is unclear how investigators verified this list—and whether the people mentioned in it actually exist. There are several obvious mistakes in the database when it comes to spelling of foreign names from the Rybar list in Russian. E.g., Phillip McInerney from Australia, whose name the Telegram channel published in English, turned into ФИЛЛИП МАКЭНЕМИ (Phillip McInemy or even McEnemy) on the wanted list. Andrew Woodhead became ЭНДРЮ ВУДХАН (Andrew Woodkhan). Dylan Farminer turned into ДИЛАН ФЕРМЕР (Dylan Fermer, the last name being the Russian word for “farmer”).

This approach differs from other cases against foreigners—the rest of the notices are usually filled out in much more detail; it is unlikely that they were uploaded simultaneously as some list.

It seems that the security forces are also lax in tracking the fate of suspects: thus, still listed in the wanted database are Belarusians Sergey Degtev and Yan Dyurbeiko, who were captured in 2022, and Eduard Lobov, who died in February 2023.

European politicians wanted due to dismantling of Soviet monuments

The Investigative Committee’s efforts against what it perceives as “Nazism” extend to prosecuting Eastern European politicians, particularly for actions like dismantling Soviet-era monuments. In May 2022, following Alexander Bastrykin’s directive, the Committee scrutinized the Latvian Saeima’s decision to exit an agreement with Russia on preserving memorials, leading to the removal of Soviet monuments in Latvia, including a notable one in Riga’s Victory Park.

In the aftermath of these demolitions, the Committee initiated cases over the destruction of burial sites but initially did not specify the individuals targeted. We have now learned that 59 of the 68 Saeima deputies who voted for the agreement’s termination, excluding members of the “Harmony” Social Democratic Party who opposed the law, have been placed on the wanted list.

Additionally, 15 Riga municipal deputies involved in the decision to dismantle Soviet soldier monuments (with a total of 38 votes “for”), and several other Latvian officials, including several who did not participate in that vote and Minister of the Interior Marija Golubeva—who was dismissed after allowing the rally in support of the monument where the police detained protesters—have also been targeted.

Russian police is also looking for Latvia’s Minister for Agriculture Armands Krauze, Minister of Finance Arvils Ašeradens, and Minister of Justice Inese Lībiņa-Egnere. During the 2022 monument vote they were MPs (and likely were put on the wanted list back then).

Lithuanian officials are under similar scrutiny, with 25 individuals, including Klaipeda’s Mayor Arvydas Vaitkus, his deputy, 13 city council members, officials, and two historians who supported monument demolitions, appearing in the wanted database. Six Vilnius city council deputies and the Minister of Culture, Simonas Kairys, faced similar persecution for dismantling a Soviet soldier monument.

Likely due to the demolition of memorials, Russia has also put up notices against Poland officials, including the mayor of Wałbrzych, Roman Szełemej, the director of the Institute of National Remembrance, Karol Nawrocki, and the Deputy Minister of State Assets of Poland, Karol Rabenda. In Ukraine, mayors and city council deputies of Lutsk and Rivne are also targeted.

Head of state on the list. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas is wanted as well

The selection criteria for individuals targeted by Russian investigators for dismantling Soviet monuments remain unclear, largely due to limited details in the wanted database. Despite this ambiguity, the pattern emerges that European officials and politicians typically find themselves on the wanted list following statements and orders from Alexander Bastrykin.

At the end of 2022, Bastrykin directed his subordinates to focus on the authorities of Estonia, where a memorial featuring a T-34 tank in Narva and other Soviet monuments were dismantled.

Following this, for the first time in history, the head of another state—Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, who had publicly supported the demolition of Soviet monuments, was placed on the Russian wanted list. Alongside her, the list also includes Estonia’s Secretary of State Taimar Peterkop.

Seek, and you will find. Search the wanted database

These are just the most striking examples of how in Russia, investigators massively initiate criminal cases against individuals who are unlikely to ever visit Russia, much less appear in court.

However, the card index may contain other notable findings that we have not yet discovered. We have decided to offer such an opportunity to our readers—by creating a user-friendly search tool for the wanted database of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (as of February 1, 2024). All of the data is in Russian, so is the search. The full dataset can be downloaded here.

While exploring the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ database, we found about 800 individuals who clearly ended up on the wanted list for political motives—these include the Ukrainian military personnel and politicians, European officials and deputies, as well as Russian activists, politicians, journalists, and bloggers. These individuals have been organized into categories for easier navigation within the search tool.

While not exhaustive, this effort aims to uncover and document politically motivated legal actions. If you notice something interesting that has escaped our attention, please contact Mediazona.

Just a reminder: not appearing in the search results on either our tool or the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ website does not assure that you are free from any criminal cases. This situation is akin to not having a certificate of no criminal record—it does not confirm the absence of legal actions against you.

Update: the table below reflects the wanted database as of early May 2024. You can read more about the update and our new findings here.

Text and data: Mediazona Data Department

Infographics: Mediazona Data Department

Editors: Maxim Litavrin, Yegor Skovoroda

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