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Limited Resistance: Young Russians Sabotage Railways in Protest Against War in Ukraine

Limited Resistance: Young Russians Sabotage Railways in Protest Against War in Ukraine
photo: Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP / Getty Images/Railway on fire
03 / 01 / 2024

As the Russian war in Ukraine persists into 2024, with attacks on civilians and infrastructure intensifying during the winter holidays, the question arises: How much worse must it get before there's a more radical response from Russian society? Amidst widespread inaction and ongoing Russian assaults claiming dozens of Ukrainian lives daily, a relatively small faction of young Russians is resorting to railway sabotage in an attempt to protest the war in Ukraine.

The British Ministry of Defense reports that anti-war activists in Russia are sabotaging the nation's railways. This disruption hinders logistics and the supply of weapons to Russian military units in the occupied territories of Ukraine, posing a significant challenge for Russia, which relies heavily on its expansive 33,000 km railway network for military-technical and material support.

According to Mediazona, from the onset of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, up to October of the previous year, there were 76 recorded instances of railway sabotage brought to court. Consequently, at least 137 individuals faced criminal charges, most of them under 24 years of age, with 39 being minors at the time of their arrest.

In Russia, the Criminal Code stipulates various sentences for sabotage, including life imprisonment. Reports from a Telegram channel mention that warning inscriptions about life imprisonment have begun to appear on relay cabinets, frequent targets of sabotage, cautioning against attacks on the property of RZD (Russian Railways).

Writing on a relay cabinet saying "Article 281 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “Sabotage” is punishable by imprisonment for a term of 10 to 20 years or for life" / Vecherniye Vedomosti / Public domain

However, as Mediazona highlights, the saboteurs face prosecution under various articles of the criminal code, leading to a "dangerous mixture" of charges. This is exemplified by a 19-year-old from Irkutsk, accused of multiple offenses, including incitement to extremism and terrorism. Notably, the personal details of these saboteurs are often classified and kept out of the public eye.