According to their own statements, the self-proclaimed “Legion for the Freedom of Russia” already carried out an attack on a military train in Russia on November 5. The group wrote on Twitter: “Tonight in Yekaterinburg our activists destroyed a train carrying fuel meant to supply Putin’s troops. Our activists are successfully attacking the dictatorship in Russia.” Their call to all Russians: “Join the ranks of the resistance!”

So the group is sabotaging in their own country and openly fighting against Kremlin ruler Vladimir Putin. What is known about the unit?

The Legion was formed in February 2022, shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, from a company of the Russian army that had voluntarily defected to the Ukrainian side. According to the Ukrainian government, it also consisted of volunteers from Russia and Belarus who wanted to defend themselves against the Kremlin.

The Legion’s stated goal is to repel the Russian invasion of Ukraine and eventually overthrow Putin’s regime. According to a spokesman, the soldiers were involved in some of the fiercest fighting of the war in eastern Ukraine.

A fighter told the US portal “Newsweek” that the Legion has “two full-fledged combat units” in Ukraine, which should ultimately form the vanguard of a new Russian revolution. “This is our main task,” the portal quotes the man as saying. “The Armed Forces of Ukraine will liberate Donbass and Crimea, but will not go further. And we will go to liberate our homeland – Russia – to destroy the Putin regime and establish a new free country in Russia, so that the territory of Russia will no longer pose a threat to the outside world.”

The secrecy surrounding the unit has led Russian state media and pro-Kremlin social media users to suspect the Legion is more of a public relations exercise than an effective combat force. Ukraine’s presidential aide Oleksiy Arestovych said in June the Legion had “a few hundred” members.

According to Newsweek, the Legion’s fighters are ideologically very different, but they share a bitter anti-Putinism. “Our people have different views, but we are united in rejecting the Kremlin dictatorship and wanting to reform Russia,” one of the men told the US portal.

“Our country must become a democratic power, but this requires a restart of the entire political and social system, decolonization, de-imperialization and a full constitutional restoration of the state.”