Russian Resistance to the February 2022 Invasion of Ukraine

By Barbara Wien

Russian resistance against the invasion of Ukraine is taking many forms.From members of the Bolshoi Ballot to scientists, academics, students, cosmonauts, diplomats, soldiers, technology experts, parents, and mothers, countless Russians have taken actions to oppose the war. It is estimated that at least 16,400 Russians have been imprisoned since February for protesting the invasion of Ukraine and all public rallies have been banned.

Currently, 3,000 Russians are operating an underground resistance network in St. Petersburg to assist Ukrainians escaping the detention camps inside Russia (over 1 million Ukrainians have been forcibly relocated to Russian territory). The network helped 18 Ukrainians escape in late July and 14 other detainees in June. Just like other historic underground resistance cells, one Russian resister helps to falsify identity papers; another smuggles Ukrainians out of the camp; another organizes clothing, funds, and hygiene kits, while still others transport escapees to the train station or the border.

Russian public opinion about the war on Ukraine is diverse. It is a myth that the vast majority of Russians strongly support Putin’s war. The summer 2022 Foreign Affairs magazine estimates that approximately 2/5th of the Russian population is opposed to the invasion of Ukraine but are afraid to speak out, while Putin loyalists are dependent on the subsidies he provides. A new poll by the state-run Russian Public Opinion Research Center found that 44% of Russians want peace talks with Ukraine. Another 12% declined to answer (likely of out of fear). A strong plurality of young Russians below the ages of 35 want the war to stop. Opposition to the invasion is largely found among the educated, urban, young professionals.But increasingly those who have lost loved ones to the war are vocalizing their opposition, while others fear that their sons, husbands, fathers, and brothers will be conscripted.A Telegram channel set up by the Ukrainian government allows Russians to learn the “fate” of their sons, fathers, brothers, and loved ones. It has over a million subscribers. Written in Russian, the channel shares the identities and photographs of Russian soldiers captured by Ukrainian forces.

1.2 million Russian military-aged males are in the annual conscription pool (ages 18 to 27).Half must present themselves to their local military commissariat each year. Of the ten major conscription centers across Russia, record numbers of young male are not reporting. Moreover, arsonists targeted Russian military registration centers with Molotov cocktails trying to set the offices ablaze. Ukrainian Brigadier General Oleksii Gromov said that they had suspected arson at least a dozen Russian “military registration and enlistment offices,” since Putin invaded on February 24, 2022. The Institute for the Study of War said these attacks are “likely in protest of covert mobilization”, citing Russian media and local Telegram channels.Young conscripts sent to fight in Ukraine are reportedly ill-equipped and poorly trained, and unaware of their purpose in the war. Some who attempted to flee the fighting on foot in Ukraine were allegedly shot by the Wagner patrol following behind their tanks convoys (BBC).

Retired Russian commanders have denounced the war. Mikhail Khodarenok, a military analyst, and retired colonel, painted a very bleak and different picture than Moscow’s propaganda. On May 17, 2022, he warned that “the situation [for Russia] will clearly get worse” as Ukraine receives additional military assistance from the West and that “the Ukrainian army can arm a million people”.Referring to Ukrainian soldiers, he noted: “The desire to defend their motherland very much exists. Ultimate victory on the battlefield is determined by the high morale of troops who are spilling blood for the ideas they are ready to fight for.”

“The biggest problem with [Russia’s] military and political situation is that we are in total political isolation and the whole world is against us, even if we don’t want to admit it. We need to resolve this situation. The situation cannot be considered normal a coalition of 42 countries are against us and when our resources, military-political and military-technical, are limited.“

The other guests in the studio fell silent. Even the host, Olga Skabeyeva, who is normally fierce and vocal in her defense of the Kremlin, appeared oddly subdued.

Countless additional forms of nonviolent resistance, both overt and clandestine, have been documented by Russian, Western media, and Ukrainians. Unfortunately, space here in the “Chronicle” does not permit an analysis of what Russian students and university movements have advanced, such as DOXA and the many other forms nonviolent resistance social scientists, cyber security experts and researchers have been able to verify happening inside Russia.


Since 1981, Barbara Wien has worked to end human rights abuses, violence, war, and ecological destruction. Currently she teaches at American University and is a peace practitioner with knowledge of gender, peacebuilding, nonviolent social movements, and the political economy of war. She has edited and written 27 books and articles, led eight non-profits. She won the 2022 Mohanji International Foundation Award for Visionary Leadership, and was named “Peace Educator of the Year” in 2018 by PJSA. She was featured in Amy Goodman’s Exceptions to the Rulers and the Progressive magazine for opposing the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as a U.S. official. Her interviews include the BBC, The Washington Post, NBC Nightly News amongst others and broadcasts in Poland, Ukraine, India, Uganda, Zambia, Palestine-Israel, and Australia.