This train is on fire: how Russian partisans set fire to military enlistment offices and derail trains

Arson of military registration and enlistment offices

Since the end of February, there have been at least 23 attacks on military registration and enlistment offices in Russia (which were reported by the media and Telegram channels), of which 20 were direct arsons. There were no similar incidents last year. Molotov cocktails were mainly used. Instructions on how to make these bottles have been circulating on social media.

These arson attacks were not some single coordinated campaign, but behind them were a wide variety of groups, from left-wing anarchists and pro-Ukrainian activists to far-right groups. Sometimes they were completely loners who did not associate themselves with any movements. For example, at the end of May, 48-year-old artist and former village teacher Ilya Farber was arrested for setting fire to two buildings of the military registration and enlistment office in Udmurtia. “I wanted to know what I can do. Am I able to… do this, ”he said about his act during interrogation.

It was rather difficult for the authorities to silence the facts of arson, because the partisans themselves are actively posting videos about it on social networks. Here, for example, is a video of the arson of a military registration and enlistment office in Nizhnevartovsk:

And here is how they set fire to the military registration and enlistment office in Lukhovitsy near Moscow:

And this is the arson of the military registration and enlistment office in Perm:

But if it is impossible to hide the arson of military registration and enlistment offices, then the other front of the partisan struggle - the rail war - can always be attributed to some kind of technical malfunction. This is exactly what the Russian authorities tried to do. But official statistics show that the number of railway accidents has risen sharply since the beginning of the war.

rail war

After the start of a full-scale war in Ukraine, news about sabotage on the railway began to appear almost every day. On May 1, as a result of sabotage, a bridge was destroyed in the Kursk region, intended for the movement of freight trains.

The Insider has calculated: according to media reports alone, from March to June 2022, 63 freight trains derailed in Russia. This is almost one and a half times more than in the same period last year. At the same time, the geography of wagon wrecks shifted to the west, and some trains got into accidents near military units.

According to Russian Railways and inspection bodies, most of the accidents are related to the poor condition of the railway tracks.

“As follows from the data of Goszheldornadzor for the 4 months of this year, 55.3% of the causes of rolling stock crashes were somehow related to violations in the current state of the track,” writes the official publication

However, the authorities cannot ignore the fact that sabotage occurs on the railways. On the first day of the war, February 24, the Ministry of Transport ordered to increase the level of security on the railways in the southern regions. And in April, Ukraine's Main Intelligence Directorate released a telegram urging the heads of certain railroad sections in the Rostov Oblast and Krasnodar Territory to cooperate with the FSB and the police to ensure railroad security.

But all these measures are of little help so far, accidents continue to occur, and especially often in the border areas. So, on April 12, residents of the village of Titovka in the Belgorod region on the border with Ukraine woke up from an explosion. Literally within an hour, Governor Gladkov tried to explain the situation. “In the Shebekinsky urban district, damage to the railway tracks. There are no victims or injured. Only the railroad track was destroyed. A task force is on the scene. I'll tell you the reasons later." But in the end, the Belgorod governor did not provide any explanations. The photographs from the scene show that the railroad track was bent upwards, the rails were rusty, the span of the bridge had fallen down.

The destruction of the railway in Titovka (Belgorod region)

Already on April 21, in the same Belgorod region, at the Kreida station, a new accident occurred - a freight train derailed:

And on April 27, the FSB reported on the capture of two Russians who were allegedly preparing a new sabotage in the Belgorod region. According to the FSB, the detainees “are supporters of Ukrainian Nazism” and “sent to the Ukrainian website “Peacemaker” information about the military personnel” of the Russian army. However, no names or personal details of the saboteurs were reported. In the video , which was published by RIA Novosti, the faces of the detainees are blurred, they speak in memorized phrases, and one of them is deliberately dressed in a T-shirt with the flag of Great Britain. According to official reports, they were charged with preparing for sabotage (part 1 of article 30, part 1 of article 281 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). However, The Insider was unable to find any data on the arrests of people with such charges in courts in the Belgorod region.

Anonymous detainee presented by state media as one of the saboteurs Source: RIA Novosti

The governor of the Kursk region, Roman Starovoit, spoke about the blowing up of another railway bridge on May 1. He called the incident "sabotage", and the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case on the attack. And at the end of May, the public “Beware, Moscow” published a message that the FSB was looking for members of a certain “Combat Organization of Anarcho-Communists” who were preparing sabotage on the railway tracks in Sergiev Posad near Moscow. According to investigators, they unscrewed eight nuts, dismantled the rail joint and partially separated the rails that led to military unit 14258 (a secret training and tactical center of the 12th main department of the Ministry of Defense, which is responsible for the country's nuclear security).

The FSB did not succeed in finding the “militant anarchists”. But The Insider succeeded. Representatives of the Combat Organization of Anarcho-Communists (BOAK) reported that they had detained trains leading to another military unit - military unit 55443 near Kirzhach (Vladimir region). The arsenal of the Main Missile and Artillery Directorate of the RF Ministry of Defense is located there. “Unfortunately, the sabotage was discovered on the evening of June 25. Nevertheless, even in this form, the sabotage harmed the enemy, delaying the movement of trains with military equipment and causing economic damage due to the need to restore the railway lines, ”said representatives of the cell The Insider.

Sabotage on the railway line leading to the military unit. The rails are closed with a wire in case that the signal current does not detect the opening of the "Combat Organization of Anarcho-Communists"

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.

Background - Belarusian partisans

When Russian troops first crossed the Belarusian border into Ukraine for what they thought would be a lightning attack on Kyiv, they intended to use the region's extensive rail network for supplies and reinforcements. Their plans were thwarted by a network of Belarusian partisans who attacked the railway infrastructure. So, for example, they disabled railway signal control cabinets. As a result, the trains were idle for days on end, forcing the Russians to resupply their troops by road. This in turn led to the famous 60-kilometer columns north of Kyiv. To date, several dozen people have been detained in Belarus in the case of “railway guerrillas”.

Attempts to damage the railway and delay trains in Belarus began as early as 2021. After the authorities reacted to peaceful protests - rallies and posting leaflets - with mass arrests, torture and long prison terms, some of the protesters moved on to more decisive actions. Thus, the informal movement “Supratsiў” was formed, which included the movement “Cyber ​​partisans” and “Busly Lyatsyats” - partisan cells “on the ground”, which just began to develop manuals for decentralized attacks on the railway infrastructure.

However, the participants in the movement themselves also called all these actions “non-violent”, since their main goal was to interfere with the work of the railway message and cause material damage. “We want to show Lukashenko's partners, including Russia, that he is unreliable, and show the Belarusians themselves that resistance continues,” one representative of the Belarusian partisan movement told The Insider.

By November 2021, the government of Belarus recognized the movement as terrorist. A few weeks after that, the partisans dropped a container with an incendiary mixture from a drone on the Volovshchina training base of the internal troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. “We are engaged in anti-terror: we prevent the regime from terrorizing civilians. Supratsi is preparing for the final counter-terrorist operation to eliminate the regime,” Busly said at the time.

A month before the start of the war (January 24), Supratsi activists carried out an attack on the Belarusian railways, which had been prepared for a long time: they encrypted the main part of the servers, databases and workstations of the Belarusian Railways and destroyed the backups. “The goal is to slow down and disrupt the road. Automation and security systems were deliberately not affected by a cyber attack in order to avoid emergency situations, ”the partisans said. At the same time, the main idea was not only to slow down the transfer of Russian military equipment: cyber partisans were ready to restore the operation of servers in exchange for the release of 50 political prisoners who were most in need of medical assistance, and to stop the gathering of Russian troops in the country.

Gomel station on January 26, 2022. Military trains occupied half of the tracks of the receiving-departure park

Restoration of information systems turned out to be very difficult for BelZhD. “A specialist who understood this type of database was fired for politics last year. The nuance is that the technology is old and young specialists do not understand it, ”said Sergei Voitekhovich, a representative of Rabochag Rukh on the railway.

Combat anarchists

In Russia, the anarcho-communists have become the most active "subversive" force. As The Insider discovered, a number of channels have appeared on Telegram since the beginning of the war, in which they published instructions on how to delay trains or arrange an accident on the railway. Their authors considered themselves to be members of a certain “Combat Organization of Anarcho-Communists”. Since March, they have published instructions on sabotage - how to dismantle the rails and not get caught - and report on successful "operations". Thus, the “anarcho-communists” took responsibility not only for dismantling the rails and railway sabotage, but also for setting fire to cell towers (for example, in the village of Belomestnoye in the Belgorod region) and even for setting fire to cars of accomplices of the regime.

To coordinate and attract new members, the anarchists even launched a bot with which you can anonymously sign up for a cell in your city. The Insider emailed them a number of questions in encrypted form, and also talked to one of the anonymous members of the organization, Ivan (name changed). Members of the organization claim that the BOAC has existed for several years, but declared itself publicly only after the start of the war in Ukraine. They "peeped the idea from the Belarusian partisans."

Anarchists launched a bot with which you can anonymously sign up for a cell in your city

“Railway sabotage is a relatively simple and highly effective way to inflict damage on an enemy army. Moreover, with minimal risk to civilians, if executed correctly, ”the anarcho-communists say in their answers to The Insider.

According to them, any interference and delays in supply and communication interfere with the operation of the military machine: “This means that at a decisive moment there will be somewhat fewer tanks or shells on the battlefield. And if we succeed in derailing the train, which we are counting on, then the equipment will not only be delayed, it will be damaged. Trains, railroad tracks and so on will also be damaged. All this can seriously weaken the Russian armed forces and have an impact on how soon the war will end.”

Anarchists claim that they have their own developed methodology to prevent the accident of a passenger train, so that civilians will not suffer from their actions.

The anarchist guerrilla movement is still decentralized. “There are organized cells and spontaneous actions of people. Decentralization makes us more mobile and elusive, but hinders coverage and complicates estimating numbers. In conditions of repression, it is still better. According to estimates for April, there are 20 to 40 such cells in Russia, but now there are probably more, ”says Ivan, a member of the movement. According to him, not all problems on the railroad get into the news. Small diversions - damage to rail cabinets, traffic lights, wire winding - usually go unnoticed by the media. “On such actions there are reports only from their authors, but they are few. All actions that get into the press can be considered successful - unsuccessful ones are not covered by anyone, nothing happened, ”said Ivan. The group is actively trying to raise funding through donations on its resources.

Screenshot: Conflict Intelligence Team, December 2021

According to the anarchists, no special training is required to participate in the rail war, participants take all the information from the manuals that the movement distributes.

Such actions are organized not only by activists with a clear ideology. The Insider was contacted by Yegor (name changed), a member of the cell that burned the car of Natalia Abiyeva, founder of a fund to help the Russian military involved in the war with Ukraine. According to him, his associates, first of all, do not agree with the actions of the authorities: “There are both anarchists and nationalists among us (but there are fewer of the latter). Everyone has their own story. We are an anti-system organization, we will understand the intricacies of political management after the regime falls or at least weakens. Putin is taking away Russia's future, if we get bogged down in political disputes today, we will be gone tomorrow. Putin threatens the world with a nuclear war, sets the whole world against Russia, our compatriots are getting even poorer, people are afraid to speak out loud about what they think about power. Inaction is an agreement to live under the rule of vile creatures until the end of life. Is this the future we want?

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