For every brave Ukrainian serving in combat on the frontlines, there are countless civilians engaging in acts of resistance behind the lines, in secret, and at great peril to themselves and their families. They are known as partisans, and their contributions to the war effort are invaluable. Partisans act as spies and saboteurs to vex the aggressors, to sow confusion and paranoia among their enemies.
French partisans were absolutely crucial to the allies before, during, and after the invasion of Normandy. They cut telephone lines and destroyed rail lines. They reported on German troop movements and positions, blew bridges, and took any opportunity to assassinate German officers. Militaries rely on their partisans to carry out various activities behind the lines in support of larger objectives. Those efforts rarely show up on a war map, other than a few miniscule lines here and there, very far away from the main action. While some partisan activity in Ukraine has been made public, by necessity, much of it has gone unreported.
With a large swath of Ukrainian territory currently occupied by Russian invaders, it’s going to take some time for the military to liberate its land and free its citizens from brutal occupation. But Ukrainian partisans have been busy, resisting the invaders at every turn. Now, not every partisan is going to be a commando-type who blows up bridges. Some partisans are vocal resisters, like the now-infamous Babushka who confronted the Russian soldier in the first days of the war to offer him sunflower seeds, so that when he died, he would fertilize the national flower.
Early in the war, Ukraine established a social media platform where partisans can report troop movements and locations of important military hardware, which are then targeted by Ukrainian military. Nowhere in occupied Ukraine is a Russian or his materiel safe from prying partisan eyes and a phone camera.
Make no mistake, this is often dangerous work carried out in hostile territory. Watch this fascinating story about a Ukrainian who infiltrated the Russian army and then called in a HIMARS strike on his own position. It is also absolutely necessary, for partisans can get to places discreetly that regular miliary cannot. The function of a partisan is to disrupt, at every opportunity, the occupiers’ plans, and to send the message every day that they are not welcome on Ukrainian lands. Do not try to hold sham elections or set up cozy housing in our communities. Do not turn our schools into ammunition depots or command posts. Down to the last Babushka, we will fight you.
Another brand of partisan is the Russian partisan, who may not be pro-Ukrainian per se, but they want to bring down the Putin regime, and so they are sabotaging inside Russia. How many fuel depots or electronics factories have been burned down by Russian partisans is hard to say, but numerous drone attacks have been unleashed inside Russia, and that has to scare the shit out of Russian command. We saw a border incursion by a group calling themselves Freedom of Russian Legion who, along with another para-military group known as the Russian Volunteer Corps, shot up a few towns around Belgorod in May. Criticized by Westerners for being neo-Nazis, these groups nonetheless are helping to frustrate and disrupt Russia’s war effort. They fall into the category of “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Anything these Russian partisans do that distract Russian forces is helpful to Ukraine. Partisans do not have to be ideologically matched to defeat Russia. The paranoia sown deep in enemy territory will degrade the Russian soldier’s will to fight. As we are seeing, incidences of friendly-fire are increasing in the Russian military, and more fratricide at the hands of stressed-out soldiers who haven’t been rested or rotated in more than a year.
Citizens in occupied Melitopol and Mariupol await their brave military, but they do not sit idly waiting for rescue. Partisans in these towns have been sabotaging infrastructure, spreading rumors, and training sleeper cells equipped with military gear ready to move when the time is right. They are already preparing for their liberation and will play an active, vibrant role in expelling the invaders.