Belarusian and Russian partisan movement (2022–present)

Pro-democratic and pro-Ukrainian partisan movements have emerged in Belarus and Russia following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a major escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War. These resistance movements act against the authoritarian governments of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus and Vladimir Putin in Russia, as well as against civilian supporters of these authorities and the armed forces of both countries, with the aim of stopping the war.[32]

Belarusian and Russian partisan movement
Part of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the anti-war protests in Russia (2022–present)

Anti-war graffiti in Saint Petersburg
Date24 February 2022 (2022-02-24) – present
(2 years, 4 months, 3 weeks and 5 days)
Status Ongoing

Russian opposition

Belarusian opposition

Separatist movements

 Russian government

 Belarusian government

Commanders and leaders
Decentralized Leadership

Vladimir Putin
Mikhail Mishustin
Sergei Shoigu
Valery Gerasimov

Alexander Lukashenko
Roman Golovchenko
Viktor Khrenin
Viktor Gulevich
Casualties and losses

Russian Opposition:
Arrests: Unknown (at least 8)[24][25][26]

Belarusian Opposition:
Deaths: At least 1[27]

Arrests: Unknown (at least 12)[28][26]

Russia Russia:

Deaths: 40+[29][30][31]
  1. ^ 2023 Bryansk Oblast raid
  2. ^ in the North Caucasus region only
  3. ^ in the Bashkortostan region only
  4. ^ in Karelia region only

Attacks on property of authorities and supporters of the war


By 2022-03-07, cases of arsons of police departments were recorded in Smolensk and Krasnoyarsk.[33]

As of 5 July 2022, at least 23 attacks on military enlistment offices were recorded, 20 of which were arson.[34] The arson attacks were not a single coordinated campaign: behind them were a variety of people: from far-left to far-right groups. Sometimes they were lone actors who did not associate themselves with any movements.[35][36] Civilian vehicles bearing the letter Z insignia (supporting the war efforts) were also set ablaze.[32]

On 2022-08-27, multiple Russian-language outlets reported that a woman named Evgenia Belova doused a parked BMW X6 with accelerant and set it ablaze in Moscow. The vehicle belonged to Yevgeny Sekretarev (Russian: Евгения Секретарева) who reportedly works for the Eighth Directorate [he; ru] of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation; the Directorate oversees the State Secret Protection Service [he; ru] handling wartime censorship. A woman detained for the arson also reportedly proclaimed her opposition to the war.[37][38][39][40][41] The woman is described as 65 years old, a patient of a local "psychoneurological clinic," and lives in the same building as Sekretarev.[42] Coverage of the incident by Radio Svoboda, mentioned a relative of the woman making the unverified claim that she was kidnapped prior to the arson by Ukrainian special forces, held for a ransom of 500,000 Russian rubles, and "hypnotized." The woman's relatives further insisted she was never against the Russian authorities, and would never have committed arson against the Russian government.[43]

Rail war




The rail war in Belarus began in February 2022. Signaling equipment was destroyed in three Belarusian regions, and railway lines were blocked. As a result of these operations, the work of several branches of the Belarusian railway was disrupted.



In Russia, the movements Combat Organization of Anarcho-Communists (BOAK) and Stop the Wagons announced their sabotage activities on the railway infrastructure. According to The Insider, 63 freight trains derailed in Russia between March and June 2022, about one and a half times as much as during the same period the previous year. At the same time, the geography of wagon wrecks shifted to the west, and some trains got into accidents near military units.[35] According to Russian Railways and inspection bodies, half of the accidents are related to the poor condition of the railway tracks.[44]

Attributed to BOAK


Representatives of BOAK took responsibility not only for dismantling rails and railway sabotage in Sergiyev Posad near Moscow and near Kirzhach, Vladimir Oblast, but also for setting fire to cell towers (for example, in the village of Belomestnoye in the Belgorod Oblast) and even for setting fire to cars of people supporting actions of the Russian leadership. According to the anarchists themselves, their activities were largely inspired by the actions of the Belarusian partisans, who effectively resisted the Russian invasion through the territory of Belarus at the very beginning of the war.[35]

Attributed to Stop the Wagons


The "Stop the Wagons" movement in Russia claimed responsibility for the derailment of wagons in the Amur Oblast, due to which traffic on the Trans-Siberian Railway was stopped on 29 June,[45][46][47][48] for the derailment of a train in Tver on 5 July,[49] several wagons with coal in Krasnoyarsk on 13 July,[50] as well as freight trains in the Krasnoyarsk Krai at the Lesosibirsk station on 19 July,[51] in Makhachkala overnight between 23 and 24 July (the investigating authorities of Dagestan are also considering sabotage as a probable cause of this incident)[52][53] and on the Oktyabrskaya railway near Babaevo station on 12 August.[54] According to the map published by the movement, its activists operate on more than 30% of the territory of Russia.[55][56]

Assassination of Darya Dugina and the National Republican Army manifesto


On 2022-08-21, a bomb planted in a vehicle killed Darya Dugina; it is widely presumed the bomb was also meant to kill her father, Aleksandr Dugin. Both are identified with Nazbolism, gave statements justifying war against Ukraine, and denied atrocities such as Bucha massacre.[57][58] The United States sanctioned both figures for their support of the regime and the war; Dugina was sanctioned for her work with Yevgeny Prigozhin in the Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections.[59]

Former State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev, who is based in Kyiv, said that a partisan organization called the "National Republican Army" is operating inside Russia and engaged in "overthrowing the Putin regime", and that it was behind the assassination of Dugina. The politician called the event a "momentous event" and said that the partisans inside Russia are ready for further similar attacks.[60] Ponomarev has told several outlets he has been "in touch" with representatives of the organization since April 2022. He states that the group has been involved in unspecified partisan activities.[61] In a May 2022 conference of exiles in Vilnius sponsored by the Free Russia Forum, Ponomarev appealed to attendees to support direct action within Russia. A Spektr (Russian: Спектр) reporter noted an indifferent response from the attendees.[62]

Purported manifesto


Ponomarev read the NRA's purported manifesto on a YouTube channel he owns, February Morning (Russian: Утро Февраля).[63] The text of the manifesto was also shared over February Morning's affiliated Telegram channel, Rospartizan (Russian: Роспартизан).[64] As of 26 August 2022, YouTube's metrics indicate video containing the claim of responsibility and sharing the manifesto is February Morning's most-seen video with 176,646 views.[63]

Doubts of NRA's existence


Doubts of the NRA's responsibility and its very existence have been raised by a wide variety of commentators.[65][66] A 22 August 2022 report from Reuters says that "[Ponomarev's] assertion and the group's existence could not be independently verified."[67] The sole suspect named by Russian investigators is a Ukrainian woman whom, Russia claims, is part of its military. The Russian government has also stated that the woman fled to Estonia.[68] The governments of Ukraine and Estonia each denied any role in the assassination.[69][70][71]

Exiles denounce Ponomarev


The veracity of Ponomarev's claims notwithstanding, his endorsement of armed action against the regime resulted in his blacklisting by the Russian Action Committee, an anti-Putin exile group. According to the committee's statement, this was because he "called for terrorist attacks on Russian territory." The committee's statement also implied that Dugina was a "civilian" who "did not take part in the armed confrontation," and condemned denunciations of Aleksandr Dugin following the attack as "a demonstrative rejection of normal human empathy for the families of the victims."[72][73]

Attack on Russian plane in Machulishchy


In late February 2023 an AWACS Beriev A-50U Russian spy plane in Machulishchy, Belarus was reported as damaged. Via Telegram, the organization BYPOL claimed responsibility for what it claimed was a drone attack. Exiled Belarusian dissident Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya responded to news of the attack stating, "I am proud of all Belarusians who continue to resist the Russian hybrid occupation of Belarus & fight for the freedom of Ukraine."[74][75]

Attacks in Bryansk Oblast


On 2 March 2023, the Russian Volunteer Corps claimed responsibility for an attack in the Bryansk Oblast near Russia's border with Belarus in which it allegedly killed one and took hostages.[76][77]

Belgorod Oblast incursions


On 22 May 2023, two Ukraine-based Russian opposition partisan groups, the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps, claimed to have attacked targets in Grayvoronsky District of Belgorod Oblast. The Freedom of Russia Legion claimed the groups took control of several border towns in the district, with fighting ongoing. Russian authorities said the attacks were conducted by a Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group that crossed the border into Belgorod Oblast. In response, Russia's counter-terrorist operation regime was imposed in the region to combat the incursion. It is the largest incursion into Russian territory since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Reaction of the authorities


The Russian authorities were forced to tighten security measures on the railways.

On 27 April, the Belarusian authorities approved amendments to the Criminal Code, providing for the possibility of applying the death penalty "for attempted acts of terrorism."

On 8 May 2022, the Telegram channel of the movement was blocked. According to their own statements, they were blocked "after the publication of a map of railway resistance, which covered over 30% of the territory of Russia."[78][79] On 19 July, the website of Stop the Wagons was blocked by Roskomnadzor in Russia at the request of the Prosecutor General's Office.[80][81]

In August 2022, a court in Moscow fined the Telegram messenger 7 million Russian rubles (quoted by TASS as equivalent to US$113,900) for refusing to remove channels providing instructions for railway sabotage and containing "propaganda pushing the ideology of anarchism."[82][83][84]

See also



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