UKRAINE’S resistance movement has one message for Putin and his stooges in Russian occupied parts of their country – you’re never safe even in your bed.
Recent weeks have seen an upsurge in targeted assassinations of officials who have been shot, blown up and poisoned for working with the hated invaders.
Notorious pro-Russian blogger Kuleshov was shot dead in KhersonCredit: Odessa Journal
Experts say Vladimir Putin’s time as Russian leader is running out of timeCredit: AFP
It comes as Ukrainian and Russian assassins race to take Putin out before he escalates his unwinnable war.
Putin faces a “double whammy” of threats from his inner circle who are believed to be secretly calling for his head, experts claim.
They accuse the Russian tyrant of being behind the grisly death of far-right journalist Darya Dugina in Moscow last week.
The Kremlin accused Kyiv of masterminding the attack on Russian soil and claimed they used a glam Ukrainian spy, her young daughter, and a Mini Cooper to carry it out – allegations its secret services have strongly denied.
Dugina criticised Putin for being “too soft” on Ukraine and her death has being seen by many as the Russian leader’s attempt to quell critics.
Former NATO chief Gary Tabach, now based in Kyiv, said Ukrainian forces were “hunting down” Kremlin sympathisers in the occupied territories.
He told The Sun Online: “Guys who betrayed Ukraine; some of the deputies, some of the leaders of Ukraine who ended up in Russia right now voluntarily, will be for the rest of their lives hunted down.
“Ukrainians have a very good imagination, they’re very innovative and are good at tracking them down.”
The US Navy veteran claimed Ukraine has a “priority list” of targets it wants to see dead, with hated Putin in top spot.
“Putin has been on that list for a long time by many people,” he said.
“Ukrainian special ops will go for what will cause the most damage, the most effect on the population and set fear into people who corroborate with the Russians.
“They want collaborators to know that if they’re going to work for the enemy then they have to be prepared to die for it because we’re going to be hunting you down.”
Yuriy Bereza, a colonel in the Dnipro volunteer battalion, said traitors were not safe in Russia either.
He suggested the Ukrainian secret service were sweeping eastwards in a devastating campaign of poisonings, midnight executions and bombings on Putin’s goons.
He told us: “They will either be executed by the Russians for inefficiency, or they will be killed during de-occupation. Only a small part of them will be lucky enough to survive and end up in Ukrainian prisons.
“It is unlikely that they will be able to escape to Russia.”
Resistance to Russian occupation is building in seized cities like KhersonCredit: Telegram
Local residents are fed up with the corruption and looting that comes with Russian troops, a security expert saidCredit: Suspline
Putin collaborator Askyar Laishev was blown up in his vehicle in JulyCredit: Twitter
The stark warning comes as body bags containing Putin allies continue to pile up.
Just this week a top pro-Putin official in occupied Ukraine was killed in a car bomb as he went to pick up his daughter from nursery school.
Shadowy guerrilla fighters, who have been training before the invasion with the help of US and UK special forces, have ruthlessly eliminated collaborators with the aim of sowing fear in their ranks.
After carrying out attacks they disappear then blend seamlessly into the local population to evade any Russian attempts to capture them and slip back to friendly territory.
They rely on secret stashes of tools of the assassins’ trade – explosives and pistols with silencers, as well as Kalashnikov rifles and grenade launchers.
“The goal is to show the occupiers that they are not at home, that they should not settle in, that they should not sleep comfortably,” one guerrilla told the New York Times.
He described one mission on a Russian-controlled police station, which began with cutting electrical power to black out a street and he then in the darkness planted a bomb in a car’s wheel well.
Fishing line was taped both to the inside of the wheel and to a detonator so the device would explode when the driver turned the wheel.
The bomb killed one police officer and wounded another with the attack carried out by the “resistance movement”, Ukraine’s defence ministry said of the time of the July 27 attack.
Meanwhile, Kherson, the first big city to fall to the Russians, has been a hotbed of resistance, and for a good reason.
Since Putin’s forces arrived, hundreds of local people have been detained and tortured, their dead bodies turning up weeks later.
So when a pro-Moscow official invited Russia to set up a military base, posters soon appeared with a £15,000 reward for his death.
Recent assassinations there include that of Putin stooge Vitaly Gura, an official in the Kherson region, who was shot dead in his office.
Dmitry Savluchenko, head of the families, youth, and sports department of the Kherson military-civilian administration, was killed in a bomb.
The explosion had burned two cars and shattered the windows of a nearby four-storey house.
Putin collaborator Askyar Laishev, who worked for Ukraine’s secret service before swapping sides in 2014, was wiped out in a car bomb blast in Luhansk earlier this month.
Assassins are also picking off Putin allies in daring missions on Russian territory.
Pro-Putin local official Volodymyr Saldo is in hospital in Moscow after being poisoned while former deputy head of the Kremlin, Vyacheslav Volodin, 58, narrowly escaped death when Ukrainian missiles hit a Donetsk office he was in just minutes after he left.
Other notable hits include that on pro-Russian activist and blogger Valery Kuleshov who wanted to become police chief under the occupying forces despite having no training.
They want collaborators to know that if they’re going to work for the enemy then they have to be prepared to die for it because we’re going to be hunting you down.
Former NATO chief Gary Tabach
One of the earliest victims of the resistance was Vlodymyr Struk, a pro-Russian mayor who welcomed Vladimir Putin’s invading forces.
He was kidnapped from his home and shot in the heart.
Dubbed “siloviki” – or “strongmen” in English – this group of ultra-elite and influential Russian billionaires propping up Putin’s regime are said to be fed up with the economic damage caused by the war in Ukraine.
Professor Dr Michael Rochlitz from the Institutional Economics at the University of Bremen in Germany said elites could act if Putin launched a nuclear strike on Ukraine or attempted to provoke a NATO country and turn the conflict into World War 3.
There are also credible reports that Putin may be behind the shock death of Darya Dugina, who was killed in a devastating blast by a car bomb last week, in a bid to fend off critics.
Duniga’s father and ultranationalist commentator Alexander Dugin – believed to have been the intended target – has repeatedly criticised the Kremlin for not being more aggressive in its military campaign in Ukraine.
Anders Aslund, economist and Russian expert, said: “Given Putin’s fondness of false flag operations, it is most likely that he ordered Dugin to be blown up, making it look as done by the Ukrainians, while Dugin’s daughter was blown up instead. More such murders are likely.”
It follows a chilling pattern of Putin cronies dying under mysterious circumstances in the past few months.
And that’s because the net is closing in on Putin, suggested Russian expert and author of Blowing up Ukraine: The Return of Russian Terror and the Threat of World War III Yuri Felshtinsky.
He told us: “[His assassination] might be done by somebody carrying a Russian passport in his or her pocket. This might be done by a person or group of people from the Russian special services.
“[It will be] Those who think that Putin is damaging Russia confronting the West and waging a war against Ukraine or by those who think that he is not doing enough or not tough enough with the West and Ukraine.”
But added: “It took Germans 4 years after the beginning of the war to try to eliminate Hitler, and without success.”
The attacks behind Russian lines are the responsibility of the military intelligence service, known as HUR, and Ukraine’s Special Operations Forces.
The resistance is organised on a cell structure and kept separate from each other so even under torture captured fighters will be unable to reveal key players.
Everyone in unit has a separate role to play, from scouting a target, gathering intelligence on a target’s movements, and finally carrying out the killing.
Individual cells are kept separate and do not know one another, lest a detained partisan reveal identities under interrogation.
All this adds up to a massive headache for the Russians, whose inability to subdue the Ukrainians, while its local allies face retribution has been compared to the Vietnam war.
“I think Russia is going to have significant challenges in trying to establish any sort of stable administration,” said Michael Kofman, director for Russia studies at the Center for Naval Analyses, a Washington-based think tank.
“Because likely collaborators – more prominent ones – are going to be assassinated and others will be living in fear.”
Darya Dugina, 29, died in the car explosion late on 20 August 2022 in Moscow regionCredit: Reuters
Ukraine has denied being behind the attack that ended Darya’s life
Askyar Laishev worked for Ukrainian intelligence before switching sides
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