Young Russians Turn to Sabotage as Expressive Outlet Amid Protests Criminalization

  • British intelligence reports activists sabotaging Russian railways to protest the war with Ukraine, as protesting is criminalized in Russia.
  • Over 150 Russians are facing criminal charges for anti-war railway sabotage, with most of them being under 25 years old and a quarter being under 18.
  • Sabotage cases involve damage to tracks, arson, and some defendants facing terrorism-related charges, with three cases involving charges of treason.

Additional Coverage:

Russian President Vladimir Putin was photographed on a train before the launch of Line D3 of the Moscow Central Diameters suburban railway network on August 17, 2023. According to British intelligence, activists against Russia’s war with Ukraine have been sabotaging railways in an effort to protest Moscow’s invasion of the country. This method has been causing problems for Russian authorities, as protesting is criminalized in Russia. The UK’s Ministry of Defense stated that railway sabotage by anti-war activists continues to present a significant challenge for the Russian government.

Protesting is nearly impossible in Russia due to criminalization, so sabotage has become an appealing method of protest for young people. The Ministry of Defense also cited statistics from independent Russian news outlet Mediazona, which reported that nearly 150 Russians are facing criminal charges for anti-war railway sabotage. Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war in February 2022, at least 137 individuals, most of them under the age of 25 and a quarter under 18, have been prosecuted for railway sabotage.

Notices have been appearing on key pieces of Russian railway infrastructure, warning that sabotage can lead to life imprisonment under the Russian Criminal Code. With over 20,000 miles of railway line in Russia, the country’s military logistics, including supplying the war in Ukraine, heavily rely on the railways. Some of the sabotage cases have involved damage to tracks and arson, with some defendants facing terrorism-related charges. Three cases even involved charges of treason.

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