Nine thousand new names. Russian Interior Ministry’s wanted persons database, updated
Nine thousand new names. Russian Interior Ministry’s wanted persons database, updated
15 May 2024, 12:52

Art: Anastasia Kraynyuk / Mediazona

In February, we scraped and published the Russian Interior Ministry’s criminal wanted persons database. At the time, we found European politicians and officials listed, as well as foreigners whom Russian investigators believe to be mercenaries fighting for the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

We are now following up with an update to the database. We discovered that investigators in Moscow continue to add more European politicians to the wanted list, while their colleagues in Russian-occupied Donetsk briefly lost and then quickly found Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. As before, below you’ll also find a convenient search tool for the database, which you can use to check yourself or any other person.

The wanted database update. Key findings

  • Mediazona first published the Interior Ministry’s wanted persons database in February 2024. This is publicly available data, but it’s inconvenient for research purposes: to check one name, you need to enter a CAPTCHA and wait five minutes;
  • At that time, the database contained almost 97,000 names. We found that 11 Moscow police departments constantly put foreigners on the wanted list in politically motivated criminal cases;
  • Among these foreigners are dozens of European politicians and officials, including Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. Also on the wanted list are those whom investigators consider to be foreign mercenaries in the Armed Forces of Ukraine—hundreds of names;
  • Today’s update contains information from up to early May 2024. The Interior Ministry’s database has 9,000 new names of people wanted on criminal charges, while 7,500 have been removed;
  • In three months, law enforcement has put several more dozen politicians from Lithuania and Latvia on the wanted list, as well as the head of the Prague 6 municipality Jakub Stárek, the heads of several Polish cities, two ministers and the police chief in Estonia, as well as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (but he was very quickly removed from the list).

Finding Zelensky

News about the appearance of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his predecessor Petro Poroshenko in the Interior Ministry’s wanted persons database emerged on May 4; the state news agency RIA Novosti was the first to report on their notices.

Inspired by this success, employees of the news agency and their colleagues from other publications began checking the website for other high-ranking officials. Within a couple of days, RIA reported that “wanted notices have been issued” for six more Ukrainian state officials—although all of them had been added to the database much earlier. For example, they didn’t hesitate to present as news the wanted notice for former Interior Minister of Ukraine Arsen Avakov, who has been on the list for ten years.

In fact, as Mediazona found out by studying data from the same database, Zelensky and Poroshenko were put on the wanted list long before the news about it appeared—no later than February 22, 2024. It’s just that no one paid attention to the wanted notices because they weren’t specifically looking for them on the Interior Ministry’s website. It immediately became clear that these notices were unusual: the head of state was put on the wanted list not by a Moscow police department, but by a police station in the Russian-occupied Donetsk region of Ukraine (its phone number is indicated in the notice).

The Russian Interior Ministry suddenly joined the discussion: on May 6, they issued a statement, essentially shifting the blame for the strange wanted notices onto the Investigative Committee. The Investigative Committee did not react in any way to the flood of news about the two Ukrainian presidents being wanted. But within a day after the Interior Ministry’s statement, both Zelensky and Poroshenko suddenly disappeared from the wanted list.

It’s unclear whether this means that no criminal case was actually initiated against the Ukrainian presidents, or that their public wanted notices were issued without permission.

We decided to check who else had been put on the wanted list in occupied Donetsk.

Russian Interior Ministry units in the Donetsk region are searching for a total of 2,707 people, the vast majority of whom (2,432) were born in Ukraine, while the rest are from former Soviet countries. There are no signs that after the was formally annexed, Russia “inherited” the wanted persons database from the authorities of the self-proclaimed republic. New notices with the phone number of the Donetsk People’s Republic Interior Ministry began to appear in small batches in the spring of 2023.

This Interior Ministry unit in the occupied region clearly divides Ukrainian natives into several groups under the “Nationality” field. Zelensky, Poroshenko, and 241 others are “Ukrainian”—apparently because the local authorities consider them citizens of Ukraine. Another 49 wanted Donetsk residents are “Russian,” which may imply they hold a passport of the Russian Federation.

But the largest group that the occupation authorities are searching for are 2,135 Ukrainian natives, primarily from the Donetsk region, with a blank “Nationality” field (27 people have “NO [nationality]”). It’s impossible to tell whether they are wanted in connection with the war in Ukraine or on ordinary criminal charges. It’s also unclear why the local Interior Ministry believes that some residents of the Donetsk region are no longer “Ukrainians” but not yet “Russians.”

At the end of February 2024, in the same list update with Zelensky and Poroshenko, there were 15 more people, 12 of whom had Donetsk region listed as their place of birth and no nationality indicated. The remaining three are Mariupol’s Azovstal defenders Kyrylo Berkal, Oleh Mudrak, and Andrii Ponar, who returned to Ukraine in the fall of 2022 after a prisoner exchange. Donetsk investigators put battalion commander Mudrak on the wanted list a year after he died of cardiac arrest at the age of 35.

In occupied Luhansk, the police are searching for 1,197 people, also predominantly locals. But there, the Interior Ministry is more diligent about the “Nationality” field: 862 people are listed as Ukrainians, 285 as Russians, and only one man has this field left blank in his notice.

The Interior Ministry departments for the portions of the occupied Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions are searching for only 89 people in total.

New revenge for old Soviet monuments

In the previous article, we mentioned the increased interest of Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin in the issue of Soviet monuments in Europe. The list of those against whom Russia is initiating criminal proceedings in connection with the demolition of such monuments continues to grow.

The most notable was the mass inclusion of former members of the Latvian Saeima who voted to withdraw from the agreement with Russia on the preservation of monuments—this allowed for their demolition. In February, the Interior Ministry list included only 59 out of 68 parliamentarians who voted “yes.” Now six more have appeared in the database—this once again confirms the motive for their persecution.

In Lithuania, in addition to members of the city councils of Vilnius and Klaipeda, their colleagues—deputies and officials from Palanga and Panevėžys—are now on the wanted list. As before, the motives are obvious: in these cities, monuments to Soviet soldiers were dismantled in 2022.

In total, 88 Latvian and 66 Lithuanian politicians of various levels are currently wanted.

The Polish wanted lists were supplemented by the mayor of Malbork, Marek Charzewski, the former mayor of Brzeg, Jerzy Wrębiak, as well as the heads of the municipalities of Prószków (Krzysztof Cebula), Siedlec (Jacek Kolesiński), and Sobótka (Mirosław Jarosz). All these cities and communities featured in Russian media reports about the demolition of Soviet monuments.

In Czechia, former and current council members, including the current head of the Prague 6 municipality, Jakub Stárek, were put on the wanted list. Back in 2019, these municipal deputies took part in the vote on the demolition of the monument to Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev.

The highest-ranking politician on the Russian wanted list at the beginning of 2024 was Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. In three months, she was joined by former Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu, Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets, and former Estonian police chief Elmar Vaher.

The list of “foreign mercenaries” continues to grow

“Foreign mercenaries” is another favourite topic of the head of the Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin. At a March meeting in Donetsk, he said that “about 700 foreigners” are already wanted in this category of cases. Using various databases (for example, this one), where the names of alleged foreigners in the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are collected, we identified about 500 names in the Interior Ministry database. The majority are still from Belarus, Georgia, and Great Britain.

As before, a significant part (330 names) of this list is the so-called “Rybar’s List”—that is, people whose last names, first names, and dates of birth without photographs and any biographical details were posted back in the spring of 2022 by a former employee of the Russian Defence Ministry’s press service on his channel. Such names on the wanted list are still easily noticeable, since the Investigative Committee employees copy them without any new information, with most of the fields left blank.

Judging by Bastrykin’s latest statements, even more names will soon appear on the wanted list. At the end of April, in Mariupol, he suddenly announced: “The investigation has information about the participation of more than 3,100 mercenaries in hostilities on the side of Ukraine (including 816 from the USA, 719 from Canada, 694 from Great Britain, and 712 from Georgia).”

Where these figures suddenly came from is unclear, given that until now, according to Bastrykin’s own statements, only 700 people were wanted.

Wanted database search

As last time, we invite our readers to study the Interior Ministry’s wanted persons database.

We have marked more than a thousand people in it whom law enforcement agencies became interested in for political reasons. These are the mercenaries, European officials, and deputies already mentioned in the article, as well as Russian activists, politicians, journalists, and bloggers whom we were able to identify. For convenience, we have divided them into categories—in the search, you can view both individual categories and all those we have marked at once.

As before, we did not set ourselves the task of finding and marking absolutely all public figures on the wanted list. If you notice something interesting that we missed, you are welcome to let us know.

You can also select those who have been added to the wanted database since February 2024 (marked with a “+” sign), or those who have been removed from it during this time (marked with a cross).

Just in case, a reminder: if you did not find yourself on the wanted list (ours or on the Interior Ministry website), this does not guarantee that no criminal case has been initiated against you. This is also the case for those who received an empty criminal record certificate. The data in the search is current as of early May 2024. The full dataset can be downloaded here.

Text and data: Mediazona Data Department

Infographics: Mediazona Data Department

Editors: Maxim Litavrin, Egor Skovoroda

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