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Russian operatives are trying to sabotage Putin’s war machine

On the night of January 4th, part of the Trans-Siberian Railway in the Krasnoyarsk region of Russia was blown up. This railway was used by the Russian military to transport goods to Ukraine.

Photos and video clips of the explosion piercing the iron bridge were posted on Telegram by an anarcho-communist fighting group called BOAK.

According to Ukrainian intelligence, this is the sixth such incident this year after 40 in the entirety of 2022, suggesting anti-war resistance in Russia is becoming more daring.

Since the February invasion of Ukraine, under Russian occupation The territory there experiences regular sabotage by the Ukrainian resistance. But in Russia and Belarus, secret networks of activists are doing their best to slow the Russian war machine.

“We are not only against Putin and the war, but we are also against Russian imperialism and against the existing capitalist system of oppression in general,” a BOAK representative told Al Jazeera by email. rice field.

BOAK describes himself as an anarcho-communist. In other words, we are shifting our focus from profit to people’s needs and pursuing a decentralized society in harmony with nature. We reject all forms of inequality and oppression.

This is at odds with the Russian Communist Party, which supports Stalinism and enthusiastically supports President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We are sick and tired of this fratricidal carnage and believe that only by stopping Putin’s attacks can we hope that this will stop and never happen again,” the BOAK representative continued. .

“The government’s defeat in this imperialist war has opened up an opportunity for the revolutionary movement and the people to realize how oppressed they were and what needs to be changed. These goals We understand that it can only be achieved through revolutionary change, and effective implementation requires an underground organization operating using partisan and guerrilla methods.”


Other Russian anti-war groups, such as BOAK and Stop the Trains, were in danger of the Nazi occupation during World War II when fighters hid in the forests of Belarus, Ukraine and western Russia and launched attacks on German forces. After resisting, they call themselves partisans.

BOAK claims to have been around for 10 years, but says it spent a lot of time building networks and gathering resources before the war in Ukraine. In 2019, BOAK claimed responsibility for burning down a mobile phone tower owned by a Turkish company in Kyiv over its invasion of Ankara into northern Syria.

BOAK says it consists of dozens of cells of various sizes that operate independently, but a central network could help coordinate or publicize their actions. The central organization follows a horizontal command structure. In other words, decisions that affect everyone in the organization are made by consensus.

The group identifies targets through open source websites such as Wikimapia, posts the results of its work on Telegram, and posts detailed instructions to other saboteurs. In August, Telegram was fined by Russian authorities for refusing to remove anarchist material.

BOAK’s favorite target is railroads, which troops use to move supplies to the front lines.

“They are the vessels that feed Russia’s aggression,” the representative explained. “It is along them that soldiers, equipment and ammunition will be delivered. Stop them and the Russian army will be suffocated without resources.”

At first, Russian authorities tried to downplay the partisan activity, blaming the derailment for a railroad defect until a Russian citizen was arrested for sabotage.

Other targets include military recruitment centers, police stations, National Guard buildings and offices of the ruling United Russia Party. According to independent Russian media, many conscription offices and government buildings have been set on fire since the start of the war, usually with Molotov cocktails. media zone.

It is not clear how many of these fires were directly organized or inspired by BOAK. Some were voluntarily caused by arsonists and independent individuals of varying political beliefs.

“We are always skeptical of the allegations, but what we do know is that the allegations of attacks and the evidence of those attacks, including photos and videos, have occurred frequently enough that the attacks are quite significant. It’s something that happens frequently, perhaps several times a week, an adjunct fellow at the New Lines Institute think tank told Al Jazeera.

“But in most cases the impact is minimal. Delaying the mobilization of reservists from a particular area does not stop it, it impedes the movement of supplies to the front lines,” Horn said. The regime knows that war motivates people to fight them directly, and Russian soldiers on the front line know that the people behind them are against them. ”

lethal force

While the group has yet to carry out assassinations, it says it does not oppose the use of deadly force and will only target national security officials. Care is taken to minimize risk to passers-by by targeting railroads near military targets where civilian trains are unlikely to travel.

“We consider the destruction of people’s oppressors very acceptable,” said a spokesperson.

Reports of assassination plots by other groups have been cast with serious suspicion.

In August, journalist Daria Dugina, daughter of ultranationalist philosopher Alexander Dugin, said: Killed in Moscow car bombing It was probably meant for his father. Although the Kremlin accused Kyiv of being behind her death, exiled former Russian parliamentarian Ilya Ponomarev, now based in Kyiv, said it was the National Republican Army (NRA), a secret organization dedicated to overthrowing Putin. ) was the work of

But historian Sergei Radchenko told Al Jazeera that the NRA does not exist.

“A persistent rumor to this effect, if it’s not part of some kind of psyop, is simply an indication of people’s dissatisfaction with what appears to be political stability in Putin’s regime, and wishful thinking. which, unfortunately, is not grounded in any evidence.”

In April, security services arrested six members of the outlawed National Socialist/White Power Group on suspicion of conspiracy. TV critic Vladimir Solovyov assassinatedthe vocal cheerleader of Putin and War.

A group of neo-Nazis threw a Molotov cocktail at the drafting office, but media reports cast doubt on the official version of the alleged Solovyov conspiracy and the crime scene clumsily staged.

Horn said groups engaged in anti-war activities have a wide range of ideologies and, even when united against the president, do not have a unified vision for a post-Putin Russia.

“It’s hard to see these actions [real or otherwise] It’s the beginning of something bigger,” Horn said. “But there is room for escalation.”

“[It] Over time, we will see tradecraft improve and the effectiveness of our attacks increase,” he said.

Railway saboteurs are also active in Belarus. Although not formally involved in the war, it is used as a logistics hub for the Russian military.

In Belarus, a number of railway saboteurs have been convicted of “terrorism” and have been sentenced to death since May.

At the end of December, Putin signed a bill punishing crimes of sabotage with up to life imprisonment. Up to 20 years for assisting, training or organizing saboteurs. Up to 10 years if you are part of a sabotage group.

However, BOAK said it was determined to continue the fight to overthrow Putin.

“We understand that changes like this don’t happen overnight,” the spokesperson wrote.

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