The Freedom of Russia Legion: a growing source of concern for Putin

A new group helping Ukraine in the fight against Putin
Russian and Belarusian volunteers
Formed in March 2022
A blue and white flag
The symbol of a new Russia?
The Russian flag is seen as a sign of authoritarianism
Training began in March
On the frontlines in the Donbas
The former vice-chairman of Gazprombank joined the legion
Aim: Stop the invasion of Ukraine and take down Putin
Aleksey Arestovich talks about the legion
The group claims many want to join them
Belarusians and Russians make up the legion
Strict protocol before new members are admitted
Is the Freedom of Russia Legion making Putin nervous?
Photos on social media show the group capturing Russians
For Russia, for freedom!
Members of the legion believe the Kremlin is afraid of them
Is Putin losing control?
A new law in Russia could send defectors to prison for 20 years
A law aimed at those who join the Freedom of Russia Legion
A growing concern for Russia
A new group helping Ukraine in the fight against Putin

A new, unlikely group of fighters has formed in Ukraine to assist the Ukrainian military in its fight against Putin: The Freedom of Russia Legion.

Photo: Instagram@freedomlegionrussia

Russian and Belarusian volunteers

This group is made up of defectors of the Russian Armed Forces along with Russian and Belarusian volunteers who do not have military training but wish to do their part to help Ukraine.

Formed in March 2022

The Freedom of Russia Legion was formed in March 2022 from a Russian army company consisting of around 100 soldiers who voluntarily defected to the Ukrainian side when the war broke out.

Photo: Instagram@freedomlegionrussia

A blue and white flag

To identify themselves, members of the legion use a white-blue-white flag on their sleeves and a distinctive patch their wear to represent themselves, as seen here.

Photo: Instagram@freedomlegionrussia

The symbol of a new Russia?

In an article in Georgia Today about the Freedom of Russia Legion, the author talks about the significance of the blue and white flag for group members.

The Russian flag is seen as a sign of authoritarianism

The author of the article wrote that the blue and white flag is the Russian flag without the red, "Many in the opposition see the Russian flag as a sign of imperialism, militarism, and authoritarianism, the red bar being a key part of this."

Training began in March

In March 2022, the first volunteers for the Freedom of Russia Legion began their preliminary training with instruction from members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

On the frontlines in the Donbas

In May, the Berliner Zeitung reported that The Freedom of Russia Legion was fighting on the frontline with the Ukraine Armed Forces in the Donbas. The German publication also wrote that the group also organizes sabotage acts and arson inside Russia.

The former vice-chairman of Gazprombank joined the legion

The Freedom of Russia Legion first caught the general public's eye when Igor Volobuyev, the former vice-chairman of Gazprombank, shared that he had joined the Legion of Freedom of Russia and gave an interview about his choice to The Guardian.

Aim: Stop the invasion of Ukraine and take down Putin

The legion's primary goals are to stop the Russian invasion of Ukraine and take down Vladimir Putin's regime.

Aleksey Arestovich talks about the legion

Not much is known about this group, but The Odessa Journal recently published a conversation between Mark Feygin, a Russian human rights activist, and Aleksey Arestovich, the adviser to the head of the President's Office. Arestovich shared information about the work of the legion.

Photo: By Yeremeev.d - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=118076053

"The number of application to the legion...is off the scale"

Arestovich told the publication that The Freedom of Russia Legion's numbers are growing, saying, "The number of applications to the Legion, including the Russian army, is off the scale."

Photo: Freedom of Russian Legion/YouTube

The group claims many want to join them

On May 4, a Russian representative of the group spoke at a press conference organized by Ukraine's Interfax news agency about the kind of recruits the Freedom of Russia Legion is receiving: "There are a lot of people who want to (join)."

Belarusians and Russians make up the legion

Another legion member said, "Our legion also includes our Belarusian brothers. Our legion includes active and retired military of the Russian Federation and otherwise. People come from different countries to fight the Putin regime."

Strict protocol before new members are admitted

However, joining The Freedom of Russia Legion isn't easy. Arestovich told The Odessa Journal they have a thorough screening process for potential candidates who even have to undergo a double polygraph test to be admitted into the legion.

Is the Freedom of Russia Legion making Putin nervous?

Arestovich also told the publication that he believes that the Kremlin is fully aware of the existence of the legion, and Putin may be getting nervous.

Photos on social media show the group capturing Russians

U.S. News reported that the unit had posted multiple videos on its Telegram channel that show The Freedom of Russia Legion soldiers capturing Russians operating in Ukraine.

For Russia, for freedom!

On May 9, at the end of his speech, Putin said, "For Russia, for victory." Arestovich told The Odessa Journal that he believes that was Putin's way of taking over The Freedom of Russia Legion's slogan, which is "For Russia, for freedom."

Members of the legion believe the Kremlin is afraid of them

Arestovich went on to say, "...no matter how Vladimir Vladimirovich tries to block the slogan that is already spreading throughout Russia, an attempt to oppose something to it – it seems that the legion has already got everyone and everyone in the Kremlin are afraid of it."

Is Putin losing control?

Some believe that the existence of the Freedom of Russia Legion is a sign that the Kremlin is losing control over Russians. According to Georgia Today, blue and white "Legion" graffities have been seen throughout Russia.

Photo: Instagram@freedomlegionrussia

"L" vs. "Z"

As has the "L" symbol, which also represents the group, and it is painted in protest to the "Z" symbol, which represents the Kremlin and the war in Ukraine.

Photo: Instagram@freedomlegionrussia

A new law in Russia could send defectors to prison for 20 years

The Kremlin is considering a new law that seems to indicate that the Freedom of Russia Legion is making Putin nervous after all. According to various news outlets, Russia may approve a law that would sentence battlefield defectors and those who volunteer to fight for foreign armies to twenty years in prison.

A law aimed at those who join the Freedom of Russia Legion

According to U.S. News, the bill was introduced in the State Duma, a lower chamber of Russia's legislature. It would apply additional penalties to those who participate "in an armed conflict, hostilities or other actions with the use of weapons and military equipment on the territory of a foreign state for purposes contrary to the interests of the Russian Federation."

A growing concern for Russia

U.S. News reported that those who understand the inner workings of the Kremlin told the publication that "...the bill reflects growing concern among Russian elites of the rates of defectors on the battlefield in Ukraine, along with reports that hundreds are volunteering to join specialized units in the Ukrainian army composed of disaffected Russian citizens."

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