Ilya Ponomarev, a Russian politician and the only Russian MP to have voted against the annexation of Crimea in 2014 now lives in Ukraine. Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion he has been working to organize Russian dissidents opposed to the regime that fled the country to avoid persecution. TVP World conducted an exclusive interview with him to ask him to shed more light on the ongoing situation in Russia’s Belgorod Region, where Russian partisans proclaiming to wish for the liberation of their country from Putin’s regime have launched a military operation in the hope of taking back their country.
Purported anti-Kremlin partisans in Belgorod region capture Russian APC
When a group of armed fighters crossed from Ukraine and began engaging Russian troops in the area, it was not quite clear what was going on. Since then, the fighters have announced that they are Russian dissidents who had decided to take their country back from the dictatorial regime occupying the Kremlin.
While the Russian Ministry of Defense claims to have killed several dozens of these fighters and pushed them back into Ukraine, Ilya Ponomarev denies this, saying that the Freedom of Russia Legion and Russian Volunteer Corps are continuing to liberate more villages. He stresses that it is true these people originally joined Ukrainian forces to defend the country against the Kremlin’s aggression, yet they are now soldiers of Russia, but not of Putin’s Russia.
“Not a single Ukrainian soldier entered Russian Federation. It’s just Russians,” and they are “going to be succeeding in liberating Russia, waving the white-blue-white flag [symbol of anti-Putin dissidents] on the liberated territory and building a new country”
The partisans’ action has, according to Ponomarev, exposed the weakness of the Russian state as it is.
“Obviously, the whole statehood of Russia starts to crumble,” he said.
According to him, this was evident by the fact that immediately when the operation started, all civil administration, police officers, and FSB had fled. It has also shown that the Russian military is incapable of operating effectively even within its own territory.
The Kremlin propaganda machine is trying to mitigate the PR damage by using its usual tactics, meaning churning out a wide array of often contradictory messages, e.g. at one point claiming that these are Ukrainian saboteurs, and elsewhere saying that these are Russians but “not real Russians”, or that “Russians shouldn’t fight Russians”.
They are also trying to mobilize their agents of influence in the West and scare the Ukrainians by suggesting that the West will stop supporting Ukraine now that the fighting has been brought to Russian soil.
Ponomarev said that these attempts to discredit and dismiss are futile, and that “we have already received a lot of requests to join the legion to join the Russian Volunteer Corps, and it’s very inspiring for a lot of young Russians.”
As he explained, the flight of the so-called elites from the area shows that Putin’s hold on power is not as strong as he or anyone else thought. Ponomarev said that the local civilians are friendly, but are also not sure what to think and what the future will bring and so they are waiting to see how the situation will develop.
This contrast between the elites and the common people proves one thing for certain according to Ponomarev.
“This shows the fundamental weakness of the regime. Nobody is ready to fight for it,” he said.
Watch the full interview to learn more.