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Russian rebels plot to 'overthrow' Putin from the inside with escalating acts of sabotage

Story by Matthew Dooley

Jun 14, 2023

Vladimir Putin's regime is being attacked from inside Russia by saboteurs targeting critical military infrastructure, one rebel has told Daily Express US.

The deputy commander in the Freedom of Russia Legion - one of two groups launching attacks inside Russia - says the "guerrilla" fighters are operating under Moscow's nose.

"There is a very big resistance [movement] from our Legion, which is present inside Russia. It is our guerrilla movement doing some acts of military sabotage: burning war commissariats, destroying railways in our fight against Putin," the fighter, callsign Caesar, told Daily Express US.

He continued: "From day to day, this fighting is getting more fierce and stronger. More people can see that we are on the right side and want to join us to help us to overthrow Putin."

There have been numerous mysterious fires across Russia since the war began, including arson attacks on supply depots, recruitment offices, police stations, and other targets.

In addition, train derailments have occurred in Russia, further stretching thin Kremlin supply chains. Last year, it was reported that Freedom of Russia Legion saboteurs targeted Kremlin propaganda, including banners displaying the now-infamous pro-war Z symbol.

Now, Russian paramilitary groups - including the Freedom of Russia Legion and the separate Russian Volunteer Corps - have taken the fight to Putin by raiding across the Ukrainian border.

Caesar said he was one of the first over the border with other Legion fighters as they crossed from Ukraine and into Russia. He claims the group is not working directly with Kyiv. The fighting took place in Belgorod - an Oblast bordering Ukraine with about 1.5 million residents - in May as well as earlier this month.

He added that the FRL fighters took fewer casualities than the defenders in Belgorod and broke through "the wall built inside the Russian media" as the Kremlin had to recognize that guerrilla fighters were operating on Russian territory.

Members of the FRL and Russian Volunteer Corps near the border with Russia.

In addition, Caesar said the raid gave hope to "communities" inside Russia willing to risk armed struggle against Putin's regime.

"[Freedom of Russia Legion's] political goal is to show that we are able to gather people to resist the regime with weapons and guns in their hands. And this is the only way that this regime can fall," he added.

However, an expert has warned that Russians could perceive the attack in two ways: either Putin's war coming home or as an attack by Ukraine bolstering the regime's propaganda.

"[Russians] may well go on to think: 'Gosh, it's pretty terrible if this is what the Ukraine war has now achieved - using Ukrainians to attack inside Russia. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to fight Ukraine'," Professor Pete Duncan, Russia expert at UCL's School of Slavonic and East European Studies, told Daily Express US.

He added: "On the other hand, now, perhaps [more Russians will think] 'we have to defend ourselves even more and get behind the regime'. I really fear that may be a consequence."

Vehicles left behind in Belgorod after an attack by a Russian paramilitary group.

Still, Dr. Duncan said that if a large enough operation was successful in the region, it could be a huge blow to Putin.

For example, if Russian partisans managed to capture a significant population center such as Belgorod City - home to around 340,000 - it would be a "very serious" defeat for Russia's armed forces.

Caesar told Daily Express US that more raids by Russian paramilitary groups into their home country could be on the horizon.

"We are not restricted with anything basically and if we see that there is a need to repeat those raids, we will do that," he said.

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