October 05, 2023

Beware the Partisans


Beware the Partisans
A fire at night. Nickolas Titkov, Flickr

The advocacy initiative Zona Solidarnosti (Solidarity Zone), dedicated to supporting individuals persecuted for anti-war actions, reports that there have been almost 310 incidents of arson, explosions, and sabotage occurring in Russia over a period of 19 months as a consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

For their research, Zona Solidarnosti meticulously collected data on documented attacks from the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops. This involved an analysis of available information on successful militant actions that did not result in arrests. The research also took into account attacks on government facilities and infrastructure within the occupied territories of Ukraine, including incidents that led to the pursuit, apprehension, conviction, or ongoing trials of individuals under the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

According to the research, more than 300 individuals have faced persecution for their involvement in these radical actions. Most of these individuals have been charged with terrorism, sabotage, and intentional destruction or damage to property. Of the total, 23 were involved in activities within the occupied territories of Ukraine. Six individuals lost their lives during confrontations with security forces during arrests, one committed suicide, and at least 37 have not been located or arrested.

A railroad sabotage made by members from BOAK, a Russian antiwar movement
Railroad sabotage by BOAK ,
a Russian antiwar movement |
t.me/boakom

Zona Solidarnosti pointed out that due to military censorship in areas under the control of the Russian army, there is a dearth of information regarding successful partisan actions. According to the research, authorities intentionally downplay the scale of resistance and its impact on military infrastructure. "Contrary to the portrayal presented by pro-Russian media, we are aware that a significant number of partisan actions have not resulted in subsequent arrests," says Zona Solidarnosti.

It is worth noting that Russian authorities expressed concerns about sabotage and other partisan activities during the first year of the Russian war in Ukraine. For instance, in December 2022, while delivering a congratulatory speech to commemorate Security Agency Workers Day, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for increased efforts by security services to counter new risks and threats. He specifically urged counterintelligence agencies to pursue spies and saboteurs and maintain continuous vigilance over areas where citizens gather, as well as strategic facilities, transportation, and energy infrastructure.

Subsequently, authorities introduced anti-sabotage amendments to the Criminal Code, introducing three new articles. The penalties for these offenses were significantly increased, with recruiting and persuading an individual to participate in sabotage now punishable by eight to 15 years in prison. Aiding sabotage carries a sentence of ten to 20 years, while organizing or sponsoring such activities results in a penalty of 15 to 20 years, and in all cases the sentence can be extended to life imprisonment.

Despite this crackdown, research conducted by Zona Solidarnosti indicates that partisan actions continue.

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