Small Wars Journal

Resilience and Resistance in Ukraine

Sat, 12/31/2022 - 10:12pm

Resilience and Resistance in Ukraine

By Otto C. Fiala


In 2014, immediately prior to the Russian invasion of Crimean, US Special Operations Command – Europe (SOCEUR) began an effort to examine the concept of resistance, based on the vulnerable exposure of the three Baltic NATO allies of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. This vulnerability centered on the lack of NATO conventional forces in that northeast corner of NATO to offer ground-based deterrence to a possible Russian incursion. The question became; what was available, besides the unlikely use of nuclear weapons, to deter and if necessary to defend those nations in case of Russian invasion? The short answer, soon to be further developed, was resistance. Then, within several months, Russia invaded and annexed Crimea. The resistance effort quickly moved from an academic thought exercise to resurrecting a form of irregular warfare, resulting in a written Resistance Operating Concept (ROC).[1] Though with northern European roots, it has geographically broader application as a form of irregular warfare.[2] This article will examine resilience and resistance in Ukraine primarily from a ROC based perspective and also identify new developments based on events in Ukraine and how they fit into the concept of resistance.

For over a decade, Putin has questioned the historical legitimacy of the Ukrainian state. He has many times publicly stated that Ukrainians and Russians are “one people.” He has stated that Ukraine illegally occupies ancestral Russian lands and that the border separating Russia and Ukraine was poorly drawn by the post revolution Bolsheviks. He has publicly lamented the fall of the USSR, not due to a fondness for its ideology Marxism-Leninism, but due to the dramatic loss of Russia's international status in the wake of the fall. Another major problem he identifies with that fall is that tens of millions of Russians were left living beyond the borders of the Russian Federation. The former Soviet Republic with the deepest ties to Russia and the largest ethnic Russian population is Ukraine.[3]

Practically concurrent with Putin’s taking of Crimea in 2014, he used Russian proxies in Ukraine’s Donbas region in an attempt to detach it from Ukraine, and foil potential NATO accession. This initiative left the Donbas in turmoil because of stronger than expected local opposition from Russian-speaking Ukrainian patriots. Putin’s proxies had a relatively small foothold, while fighting between the Ukrainian military and Russian separatists along loosely defined demarcation lines continued as Ukraine attempted to reclaim the region and Russia defended its foothold.

Control over Crimea and the Donbas allowed Putin to keep Ukraine destabilized but fell short of his objective to re-establish Russian control over Ukraine. Eight years of fighting on the ground, while suffering international sanctions, failed to achieve a decisive outcome. During those years, Putin watched as Ukraine moved closer to the European Union and hosted NATO troops in Ukraine at training centers. Finally, Putin decided to use the full force of his military to obtain control over Ukraine and re-unite Russians and Ukrainians as “one people,” and launched his “special military operation” (invasion) on 24 February 2022.[4] However, his hope for a quick and decisive victory fell flat, as did the prediction by US intelligence that Kyiv would fall within 72 hours of the Russian invasion.[5] Instead, Putin ran up against a bedrock of Ukrainian resilience which provided the foundation for its resistance. 

Ukrainian Resilience

National resilience has many aspects to it, among them are national identity, psychological preparation, identification and reduction of vulnerabilities, and identification of and preparation against the threat. Here we consider the case of Ukraine, preparing itself or hardening its society against a hegemonic neighbor while limiting our review of resilience to national identity and preparation against the threat in the form of resistance planning.[6]

Most generally, a society’s resilience contributes to deterring an adversary from invading its territory and supports national defense planning, to include engaging in resistance to regain national sovereignty. Generally, it’s a description of a society’s survivability and durability. Essentially, resilience is the will of the people to maintain what they have; the will and ability to withstand external pressure and influences and/or recover from the effects of those pressures or influences.[7]

National Identity

National identity is an extremely powerful force in today’s international relations and the prevalent reason for nations of people to protect themselves through creation, adoption, or reformation of a state.[8] The purpose of the state is to provide the bureaucratic administration to support public safety, economic regulation, education, and specifically to defend the nation.

A Ukrainian national identity, or ethno-national consciousness, held by the Slavic people inhabiting Ukraine has been evolving for several hundred years. This identity formation was given a major push in the late 16th and early 17th centuries when the people of the area rebelled against their vassalage in a feudal society controlled by the Kingdom of Poland-Lithuania. Later, after the Muscovite czars defeated the Poles, they inherited and continued this system of vassalage and bondage over the people of Ukraine, thus strengthening the link to Russia as well as Ukrainian resentment of it. The local Slavic dialects gradually coalesced into a Ukrainian language, closely related to but distinct from Russian, which would form the linguistic part of their national identity.

During the Soviet period in the 20th century, Ukraine was a Soviet Socialist Republic incorporated into that union but retained a national consciousness and distinct cultural life that were allowed to exist in a Soviet form. In the early 1930s as part of one of the Soviet Five-Year Plans for agricultural production, famine, possibly intentionally inflicted by the communist Soviet regime, occurred in Ukraine, and killed approximately 3.4 million people through starvation and became known as the Holodomor (death by hunger). The result was further enmity to Russian rule.[9]

In WWII, due to growing enmity against Russian dominated Soviet rule, many Ukrainians initially welcomed the invading Germans. However, the Soviets eventually returned to rule Ukraine and then as the Germans were pushed back westward, annexed western Ukraine which prior to the war was ruled by Poland and Romania. Ukrainian nationalist partisans fought Soviet rule for another decade, killing more than 30,000 Soviet soldiers, functionaries, and secret police.[10] For its part, between 1945 and 1955, the Soviets killed more than 150,000 alleged guerrillas and sympathizers, while hundreds of thousands of western Ukrainians were deported to Siberia or Central Asia, and almost 90,000 were imprisoned. This history is significant, because western Ukrainians have glorified those nationalist guerrillas and their struggle for independence.[11] This event became part of the national mythology and played a large part in the formation of contemporary Ukrainian national identity. The Soviets also inadvertently fostered this identity development further at the Yalta conference by obtaining a seat for Ukraine (and Belorussia) at the new United Nations, resulting in three votes for the Soviet Union.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine sought to distance itself from Russia, primarily based on language, history, and culture. This distancing was gradual in the 1990s but sped up after the turn of the century. This identity formation accentuated ethnocultural differences between Russia and Ukraine with Russia serving as “the other” and contemporary Ukrainian national identity being constituted in opposition to it.[12]

In 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky, an actor born to a family of Russian speaking Soviet Jewish intellectuals in Kryvyi Rih, gradually learned Ukrainian, left a career in television, and founded a political party with an anti-corruption platform committed to western liberalism and allying Ukraine with the West. Zelensky closely associated his anti-corruption platform with adopting Western liberalism.[13] Today’s Ukrainian national identity is overwhelming civic, based on being a citizen and sharing a culture, with a strong current for sharing the Ukrainian language for common discourse.[14] The cultural and linguistic aspects are likely to strengthen after the conclusion of the present war.

The battle for independent identity more recently extended to church organization and hierarchy. The Ukrainian Orthodox churches had been under the jurisdiction of the patriarchate of Moscow since 1686, when, under pressure from Russia, they abandoned allegiance to Constantinople, switching to Moscow. In January 2019, the Kyiv Patriarchate and Autocephalous, or eastern churches independent of patriarchal authority, merged to create the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Russian Orthodox churches continue to exist in Ukraine, but they are politically aligned to the Russian government in Moscow and do not criticize Russia or support Ukrainian sovereignty.[15] In December 2022, after the arrests of 33 priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which reports to Patriarch Kirill in Moscow, a supporter of Putin and the Russian war in Ukraine, Zelensky proposed a law to his parliament to outlaw religious organizations affiliated with Russia to prevent them from operating in Ukraine.[16] If passed, this would be a major religious and cultural break with Russia, and further distance Ukrainian identity from Russia.

Thus, Ukraine has been intentionally and increasingly forming a strengthened national identity based on identifying with the West through ever increasing ties with organizations such as NATO and the EU while rejecting Russia.  This strong and still developing identity has rendered a high degree of resilience in the face of attempted Russian (re-) domination.

Preparation and Planning

- The Law on National Resistance; General Resistance and the Resistance Movement

On 29 July 2021, President Zelensky signed the law of Ukraine “On the Fundamentals of National Resistance.”[17] The law divided Ukraine's concept of resistance into three elements: Territorial Defense Forces (TDF), a Resistance Movement, and a system for general societal resistance for citizens to resist an occupier. The Territorial Defense Force is an organization staffed with a core of full-time cadre, geographically based on districts, and divided into three components: military, civil-military, and civil. Within the civil-military component, the legislation established Voluntary Formations of Territorial Communities (VFTC). These formations were intended to allow adult Ukrainian citizens to potentially join the TDF and national Resistance Movement.[18] If in occupied territory, both the TDF and VFTC, both as organizations and its individual members, can be subject to direction by the Resistance Movement. The President of Ukraine as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was placed at the head of the national resistance and territorial defense.[19] When he signed the law on 29 July 2021, before elements of the nation’s special operations forces, on Special Operations Forces Day, Zelensky also declared that “measures of national resistance will be carried out both in the controlled and temporarily occupied territories of our state,” in reference to the Donetsk and possibly Crimea regions.[20]

This law is in keeping with the resistance concept and its strong advocacy for the creation of a national legal framework to help legitimize resistance both domestically and internationally.[21] The law basically divides resistance into two aspects.[22] One is national resistance in which the whole-of-society can participate, including the TDF, and the other is the Resistance Movement which is a secret cellular organization authorized to use cover and in which much fewer people can participate.

The law defines national resistance as measures that organize, conduct, and promote the defense of Ukraine through the widest possible involvement of Ukrainian citizens. Its purpose is to ensure the military security, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of the state, while deterring and if necessary repulsing aggression and inflicting unacceptable losses on the enemy, in order to force him to cease armed aggression against Ukraine.

It also identifies and defines its Resistance Movement as a system of military, informational and special measures, organized, planned, and prepared to restore state sovereignty and territorial integrity during armed aggression against Ukraine. Its tasks are to; form Resistance Movement cells with the necessary relevant capabilities to obstruct actions of enemy forces, participate in special operations focused on intelligence, information, and psychological operations, and prepare citizens to participate in this organization.

The law states that the building of this Resistance Movement organization is to be carried out in peacetime and during a “special period” which is a reference to “temporary” occupied territories; authorizing application of this concept in territories considered occupied since 2014. The organized Resistance Movement then conducts operations in territories defined within this special period and also when aggressor forces capture any territory of Ukraine during armed conflict. Therefore, in keeping with the resistance concept, the activities of the Resistance Movement as an organized entity are specifically targeted against foreign occupation of Ukrainian territory and should not devolve into a peacetime internal security force.[23] All acquisitions of goods and services for the Resistance Movement are a state secret and all its property is designated as military property. The law even specifically authorizes the use of cover for the organization’s funding, property, and activities.

Preparation for general national resistance is through general military training and is organized by the Territorial Defense Forces (TDF). This authority stems from the Cabinet of Ministers, which is different from the Resistance Movement whose authority follows a military chain and stems through the Special Operations Forces to the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and then to the President. According to Article 11 of the law, national resistance is to be strictly non-partisan, involving no political party activities or campaigning and with no political party symbols. The law also authorizes the acquisition, storage, and maintenance of unspecified material as well as the conduct of exercises. As a whole of government effort, it begins at the national level and specifies responsibilities through the regional, district, city, and village levels.[24]

The Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (UKR-SOF) are given the leading role in the organization, preparation, regulation, support and conduct of the Resistance Movement and in participating in drafting laws governing the Resistance Movement. All information concerning means and methods of the Resistance Movement and its interaction with UKR-SOF, as well as its budget and expenditures is classified as secret. Further, any military service members, law enforcement officers and other persons involved in the organization, preparation, support, and execution of the tasks of the Resistance Movement are subordinated to Commander UKR-SOF, whose decisions are binding for the period of such activities. This clearly gives UKR-SOF the responsibility to organize, train and equip this entity and then gives it operational control to direct resistance activities against the enemy in occupied territory.[25]

This affirmation of an authorized legitimate organization, eases support for it both domestically and from allies and partners.[26] Specifically, the US has strict and specific laws regarding foreign militaries and what type of training events and material support can be made available through the Department of Defense.[27] Such official, legal linkage to the Ministry of Defense allows the US to interact with and support such an organization as part of their defense establishment.  Additionally, such a law allows the citizens of allies and partners to understand that they are supporting an organization that was established through democratic procedural norms, adheres to international law (hopefully), and is designed to defend a free people as citizens of an allied or partner nation.

- Preparation of Citizenry

Prior to a crisis, the government must ensure that its people are aware of how they can contribute to a resistance against an occupation.[28] This can involve informing and educating the populace regarding personal and family resilience, such as stocking canned food, first aid supplies, communication alternatives and knowing transportation options. They can also be informed of peaceful and passive methods of resistance, and even informed of how to coordinate such activities.[29] Additionally, some can be trained for more active direct action against occupation forces.

Before the February 24 Russian invasion, a few average Ukrainian citizens had already been preparing for guerrilla warfare against Russian troops through participation in organizations conducting such training.[30] This effort was supported by approximately four million, mostly unregistered, firearms in civilian hands. Much of this training was conducted by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that had to register with the central government and conduct government approved training. Those who completed these courses could become part of Ukraine’s volunteer defense forces (Territorial Defense Forces).[31] There were dozens of organizations and veterans’ associations running military training for civilians throughout Ukraine during the eight-year war with Russian-backed separatists.[32]

However, perhaps teaching citizens how to use arms may not be the most effective way for citizens to assist in the fight against an occupier. Direct violent confrontation, especially against soldiers who have recently fought in battles, can be very dangerous. Other ways that citizens can help is by providing information for targeting, taking and providing photographs for use in psychological operations, countering adversary misinformation and disinformation, anti-occupier and pro-Ukrainian graffiti, hiding equipment and material for later use, etc.[33] 

- Military Preparations for Resistance with an External Partner

Prior to the invasion, Ukrainian forces were training with US forces through the Joint Multi-National Training Group – Ukraine (JMTG-U). Established in 2015 at Combat Training Center (CTC)-Yavoriv, Ukraine, originally as Fearless Guardian and changed to JMTG-U in 2016. The JMTG-U had the mission of training, equipping, training center development and doctrinal assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Post invasion, this training continues today in Germany.[34]  Some of this joint training value doubtless filtered down to individuals who separated from the military but retained the knowledge, making them viable candidates to assist in national resistance.   

Additionally, SOCEUR helped transform UKR-SOF from its previous Soviet model to a new NATO compatible model through creation of a Ukrainian Special Forces qualification course and infusion of US concepts of a strong NCO corps with leadership responsibilities and the concept of mission command. These were incorporated into multi-national exercises. Post invasion, US assistance within Ukraine has continued through a remote advise and assist effort.[35]


The increasing ties between Ukraine and the West, especially Ukraine’s continuing push to bring NATO and the EU to the borders of today’s Russia, while consciously severing its cultural ties with Russia, eventually caused Putin to invade central and western Ukraine on 24 February, in an attempt to halt its westward slide. Putin likely saw the need to act before it was too late, and Ukraine was unrecoverable.

A quick examination of Russia’s war in Ukraine will identify it as a war for cities and not the meeting of large armies in fields of battle. If Ukraine had a large land force to defend against Russia, then it would likely have chosen to meet and attempt to defeat Russian forces in areas away from its precious population centers. Yet, it could not. So, to defend the people of Ukraine, it had to move physically closer to the people. This offered the advantage of increasing the complexity of the defensive posture of the Ukrainian forces by making it more difficult to target them in these urban environments. It also presented the opportunity for greater and more direct involvement in the war by the average citizen.[36]

This has brought about the opportunity for resistance. It is a form of irregular warfare that Ukraine has skillfully combined with the conventional warfare of its armed forces. Resistance is the natural response of a sovereign government and its people when faced with a threat to their sovereignty and independence. Government preparation and planning across its organizations and the whole-of-society has been vital to ensure the development and conduct of organized resistance against an occupier. Resistance runs the gamut from passive to peaceful to violent and is distinguishable from terrorism, insurgency, or revolution as a nation’s response to adversarial occupation. The methods and intensity of resistance are functions of the nation’s determination to resist and the degree of coerciveness that the occupier can apply against resistance. Resistance can be defined as: “a nation’s organized, whole-of-society effort, encompassing the full range of activities from nonviolent to violent, led by a legally established government (potentially exiled/displaced or shadow) to reestablish independence and autonomy within its sovereign territory that has been wholly or partially occupied by a foreign power.[37] National resistance to a foreign occupier as a form of warfare is our primary focus.


The purpose of planning for such a resistance is to add an additional layer of deterrence into national defense planning, meaning that the existence of this organization cannot be secret for it to possess its deterrence value (e.g., Ukrainian’s Law on National Resistance). This layer is designed to deny the political consolidation of invaded and occupied sovereign national territory to an adversary. Its additional purposes are to maintain popular morale to fight the adversary through all means, ranging from violent to non-violent, to give the sovereign national government an organized capability to use against the adversary in occupied territory, to assist partner nations in their efforts against a common adversary, and to help ensure post-conflict political stabilization and return of the sovereign representative government.[38]


Yet resistance is also a type of warfare for which a state can prepare, prior to conflict, to broaden its national defense strategy by adding it as a layer of deterrence. Its purpose is to deny the adversary the ability to politically consolidate occupied territory. This establishment of a planned resistance organization, in compliance with the nation’s legal framework, results in an authorized and legitimate resistance organization that can be employed in the event of adversarial occupation.[39] In this case, Ukraine’s Law on National Resistance legitimized national resistance as a whole-of-society effort, and as part of such effort established a designated Resistance Movement. 

Another necessary feature of resistance is legitimacy. Legitimacy is critical to conducting a successful resistance. In today’s interconnected world, with the nearly instantaneous worldwide communication of words and pictures, and the interpretation of those words and pictures by individuals, news organizations, and governments receiving them, effective communication of the legitimacy of a nation’s resistance to an occupying adversary is critical to successful resistance. Externally, the legitimacy of this struggle must reach the voting citizens of partner democracies, which is translated into that nation’s popular support for the nation resisting the occupying adversary, which then becomes a positive factor that supports the decision-making process of that country’s leadership in its backing of the resisting nation.[40]


- Resistance Organization

An organized resistance typically has four traditional components: the underground, the auxiliary, guerrillas, and a public component.[41] The underground is the clandestine organization within the occupied territory.[42] It contains the leadership of the resistance organization, directing the resistance effort on behalf of the legitimate sovereign government that is typically displaced or exiled (in this case Ukraine has been able to continue its governing functions split between Kyiv and Lviv). It performs political and armed tasks, including acts of violence, subversion, sabotage, control of the guerrilla component, and direction of networks of logistics, recruitment, training, escape and evasion, and intelligence gathering.[43]

The auxiliary component functions as the support element of the resistance organization.[44] It can range from supporters who assist the resistance based on presented opportunities (e.g., a doctor who is contacted by the resistance once to assist an injured member) to people exercising more functional roles as occasional participants who intermittently provide things such as information, transportation, safe houses, communications, and medical resources.[45] Thus, it is a supporting component of mostly part-time functional assistance to the organized resistance, with task requirements decided by the leadership of the underground.

The guerrilla, or armed component, conducts armed violence traditionally associated with guerrilla warfare such as raids and ambushes in occupied territory.[46] The word guerrilla refers to both the actor and the type of warfare. It has long historic roots, dating back to the Peninsular Campaign during the Napoleonic Wars, and since then it has too often possessed a connotation of a rurally based entity. Despite that connotation, the word “guerrilla” is useful for historic research regarding tactics and effects. The term ‘armed component’ may eventually become a more accepted description of this component of the resistance and allow us to focus on both previous and developing tactics and effects, including conventional, especially given that likely most such activity will take place in urban environments.[47]

The public component is an overt component with leadership functions that frequently overlap with the underground, having the responsibility for managing political efforts and communications.[48] Historically, the public component that operates within the occupied territory often becomes the new government upon departure of the occupier, but only if a displaced or exiled legitimate government does not otherwise exist.[49]

In Ukraine, based on available information, these functions can be assumed to exist based on the activities we know occurred in once occupied territory and continue to occur in presently occupied territory. It is also becoming apparent that based on open-source information, UKR-SOF is performing many of the functions traditionally associated with the underground. Also, the high level of resilience of Ukrainians and their determination to be a sovereign nation independent of Russia has meant that there has been much cooperation by citizens with their military and security services which translates to a very large auxiliary capability. Though opposition to Russian occupation in occupied territory voiced through an overt public component does not exist, the government of Ukraine, which notably has not had to exile to survive, fulfills this overt political function. 

- Ukrainian Resistance Handbook

Issuing handbooks in anticipation of war or during war is not novel. Recent examples of such handbooks issued to the public as preparation to enhance resilience are; If Crisis or War Comes (2018), modeled on a WWII era edition, issued by Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency, and Prepare to Survive Emergencies and War: A Cheerful Take on Serious Recommendations (2015) issued by Lithuania’s Ministry of Defense. During WWII, the Soviets issued The Guide Book for Partisans as an instruction manual for their underground members who could not be trained in person with much focus on observing and reporting on the enemy. The Ukrainians have continued this wartime practice of issuing guidebooks to their resisting citizens but now in electronic form via the internet.

The handbook begins by clearly dividing resistance responsibilities. It states that there exist both underground and guerrilla forces that operate in occupied territory. It then goes on to state that the average civilian, the intended reader of the handbook, is the most numerous and essential component of resistance which facilitates the success of the underground and guerrillas – the auxiliary.

It begins by emphasizing the safety of the individual citizen and advocates anti-occupation activity based on individual capability and on security factors to lower the risk to the individual. It describes how to commit simple acts of sabotage in remarkable detail and even provides a list of potential alibis from which a citizen committing such acts can choose. It warns against telling friends and family of any activity for their own safety and that of the actor as well as warns against retaining any compromising information, including the guide itself, on personal electronic devices.

The handbook details methods of passive resistance, describing them as the safest. It even has suggestions such as pointing the occupier in the wrong direction when asked for directions, being unpleasant and quarrelsome, disrespectful and being silent around occupation personnel. Its advice of slowing work, sowing confusion into decision making, spreading rumors, pretending not to understand instructions, promoting excess caution to slow any activity, demanding instructions be written for “clarity,” creating large and unwieldy committees for decision making under the guise of inclusiveness, rewarding inefficient workers, prioritizing the least important tasks, creating unnecessary layers of approval for decision making, and consistent questioning, are practically straight out of the WWII OSS Simple Sabotage Field Manual.[50] It also suggests that medical personnel should secretly care for members of the Resistance Movement and that law enforcement officers should give uniforms to Resistance Movement personnel.

The book also details sabotage methods such as arson, overloading transformers, damaging boilers, power and sewage lines, and manufacturing equipment, and identifying collaborators to the Resistance Movement. It advocates that the actor always be as safe as possible and to practice information hygiene.[51] This handbook provides very specific and detailed actions aimed at harassing an occupier and refusing to that occupier the ability to easily and safely consolidate its hold on the nation’s territory.

This handbook, available on the internet, is no substitute for more traditional hands-on training, but it is little different from historical examples of communicating methods and goals by leaflets, pamphlets, and word of mouth. Today, as long as there exists internet connectivity, websites can just as easily perform the same function.[52]

- National Resistance Website

In addition to their booklet available through the internet, the Ukrainians have also created a website to assist resistance, known as the Center for National Resistance. [53] It is both a resource for information on engaging in methods of resistance, similar to what may be found in the booklet, and also has the ability to interact, communicate, and report information to the Ukrainian armed forces. It even takes donations.

The website describes ways of using of nonviolent actions, including boycotting public events, labor strikes, and even how to use humor and satire to chip away at the enemy; all very traditional techniques,[54] but communicated via newer technology. The combined objective of these actions is to disrupt the ability of Russia-collaborating local authorities to govern while reminding the population of Ukraine’s rightful sovereignty.

The virtual Center for National Resistance also provides detailed instructions for setting up ambushes and organizing peaceful resistance activities. It also describes how to securely spot and report enemy troop locations and respond to chemical attacks. According to the website: “In order to become an invisible avenger whom the occupiers will fear, it is necessary to know tactics, medicine, internet security, homemade weapons, and nonviolent actions.”[55]

- Peaceful Resistance

Though not without some risk, especially if it reaches the level of direct interference with the occupier’s ability to rule, peaceful resistance is a type of resistance that is available to a broader swathe of the population than are the much riskier violent acts of resistance.[56] In Ukraine, in March 2022, an older couple whose courtyard was intruded upon by Russian soldiers insisted that they leave and closed the gate behind them.[57] In another example, a woman of grandparent age gave a Russian soldier a handful of seeds so that flowers would grow once his body was buried.[58] These were acts of defiance and resilience communicated to the occupiers, and broadcasted to fellow citizens and the outside world. Another aspect of peaceful resistance is the traditional fight for the symbolic environment. This regards such acts as the placing of pro-Ukrainian graffiti and leaflets in public places and destroying pro-Russian flags and symbols.

The Russians have relied on collaborators to help run local administrations because they don’t have enough people to police the local population and staff all the administrative positions necessary for governance. Yet, possibly as a surprise to President Putin, very few Ukrainians have chosen to collaborate. Joining the local Russian government earns the person a Russian passport but in the city of Kherson, prior to its liberation in the Fall, only about two dozen people received a Russian passport from direct collaboration out of a population of several hundred thousand in the city.[59] For fortunate collaborators, the peaceful method of resistance against them is social ostracization. [60]

In Kherson, posters were placed across the city, with images of individual collaborators accompanied by personal verbal threats or by drawings of a noose, gun, exploding car or an image of a corpse half-covered in dirt. Russian occupation personnel were also targeted by similar messaging, such as; “AFU [the Ukrainian army] is nearby. Orcs be afraid.”[61]

- Violent Resistance

The Resistance Movement, UKR-SOF and probably Ukrainian intelligence agencies have engaged in government directed violent resistance in occupied territories. These organizations have conducted sabotage operations against critical infrastructure and targeted assassinations against collaborators and government officials installed by Moscow in Russian occupied territory.[62] Historically, as well as today in Ukraine, such operations are meant to cause the adversary to devote excessive resources to the protection of their personnel and operations and to separate the governing authorities from the people in order to prevent the adversary’s political consolidation of occupied territory.[63]

Some of our best open-source information comes from the city and region of Kherson. In the initial days of the Russian invasion, the Russians were met with street protests by civilians, which were violently suppressed. Peaceful resistance in the form of demonstrations and marches took place there almost every day, and in the Russian-controlled cities of Melitopol, and Enerhodar.[64] Many of the activists who took part in initial protests against the Russians were caught on video and later arrested. Soon, resistance took the form of carefully calibrated sabotage of Russian military capacity and attempted and successful assassination of pro-Russian local officials. Volodymyr Saldo, the head of the occupation administration in Kherson, was hospitalized after being poisoned, reportedly by a personal chef.[65]


According to available open-source information, by September 2022, close to 20 Kremlin-backed officials or their local Ukrainian collaborators were killed or injured in successful and attempted assassinations. They were shot with small arms, blown up with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), hanged and poisoned. It is unclear as to which acts were attributable to Resistance Movement members, UKR-SOF, or intelligence organizations, though many were likely a combination of effort among these organizations. It is also unclear as to what sort of legal or judicial process, if any, was used to legitimize and justify such targeted assassinations of apparent non-combatants. According to Ukrainian officials, part of the purpose of these attacks has been to demonstrate evidence of a “powerful partisan and active protest movement” to show that Moscow is incapable of controlling the areas it occupies.[66] These attacks were designed to ensure that Moscow would find it nearly impossible to recruit from the local population for the pro-Russian administrations, as well as successfully dissuading Russian officials from traveling to Ukraine to take administrative positions because of the extremely high personal risk. In Berdyansk, the deputy head of the traffic police, Aleksandr Kolesnikov, died after a bomb blast, which local authorities blamed on the “Kyiv regime.”[67] In the city of Melitopol, this past spring, partisans booby trapped a car at a Russian controlled police station, killing one police officer and wounding another. The intended effect, largely achieved, has been to forcefully and violently de-legitimize Russian governing administration of occupied areas and prevent Russian political consolidation of these areas.[68]

Also in Melitopol, where the Russians have tried to politically consolidate control, partisans have targeted Ukrainians who join the Russian-controlled United Russia party. Police officers, municipal and regional government employees and teachers who agree to work under the Russian educational curriculum, are designated by the Ukrainian government as collaborators and are therefore legitimate targets. However, the Resistance Movement and its UKR-SOF overseers do not target doctors, firefighters, and employees of utility companies.[69] Neither will they attack teachers, but will publicly humiliate and intimidate them in leaflets, and have posted names and photographs of principals who planned to open schools this past September with mandated Russian curriculums, by warning them: “For collaborating with the Russians, there will be payback.”[70]

There have been many confirmed partisan attacks in the eastern oblasts of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and small arms have been used to assassinate or attempt to assassinate officials in municipal administrations supported by Russia. IEDs have also been used for sabotage. Partisans also likely acted with UKR-SOF on April 28 to destroy a railway bridge in Yakymivka, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, disrupting supply transit from Crimea and possibly also on 9 August to destroy several Russian aircraft at the Saki airfield in Crimea.[71] Ukrainian partisans attacked the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) on July 20 with three UAVs equipped with warheads, resulting in 3 dead and 12 wounded Russian occupation personnel. [72]

Prior to the Ukrainian counter-offensive to re-take Kherson in late August, Resistance fighters attempted to weaken Russian defensive capability in order to assist an anticipated Ukrainian offensive but were mindful against the possibility of severe Russian retaliation against the populace.[73] In fact, they may have been under orders for several months not to commit lethal attacks against Russian forces for that very reason.[74] Historically, direct lethal action against the occupiers, such as assassination of their soldiers, yields little but violent reprisals and extreme hardship for the local population and is usually ill-advised.[75]

According to what we know thus far, some members of the Resistance Movement were trained and prepared before Russia invaded, but we do not know the numbers or extent of the organization.[76] Once hostilities were underway, UKR-SOF vetted people without their knowledge and then, acting as traditional intelligence handlers, contacted them for assistance.[77] Such persons were then tasked with non-violent activities such as acquiring information regarding locations of Russian artillery, troops, armored vehicles and ammunition stocks, hiding weapons or explosives at specified locations, as well as identifying collaborators. The information was most often used to direct Ukrainian artillery fire, prepare for future Resistance Movement or UKR-SOF activities, or for verification and assassination of collaborators. Once the person proved their capability and reliability, more dangerous and critical tasks were assigned such as re-locating weapons caches or preparing to provide more direct support to incoming Ukrainian forces. Communication of these activities was supposedly exchanged on messaging apps such as Telegram.[78]

In keeping with sound practice for such activities, most people contacted in such a manner usually did not know who else among their neighbors or co-workers were also resistance members. We do not yet know whether traditional cellular networks were formed or the degree to which they may have been required based on traditional historic communication methods as compared to new technologically available methods via internet.

Ukrainian resistance elements in the Kherson region estimated that about 80% of their work involved collecting and communicating information about Russian movements to enable precision strikes by Ukrainian forces. The remaining 20% involved direct action against occupation forces. However, most direct action against Russian forces were likely carried out by professional Ukrainian SOF or intelligence forces, while local resistance elements engaged in attempted and successful assassinations of collaborators with IEDs and small arms, while attacking some infrastructure with arson attacks and IEDs and committing acts of sabotage.[79]


The combined clandestine activities of UKR-SOF and local resistance forces in direct action missions and information gathering to support those missions as well as support the targeting for conventional forces, played a key role in the battle for Kherson.[80] In addition to gathering and sending information out of the occupied areas, other resistance activities helped maintain local Ukrainian morale, such as the “yellow ribbon movement,” operating in the symbolic environment, which decorated the city of Kherson with Ukrainian symbols, while defacing pro-Russia billboards and posters, .[81]


In attempts to consolidate their occupied areas, Russia tried to displace the Ukrainian hryvnia currency with the Russian ruble, the Ukrainian language with Russian, and attempted to reform the school curriculum with one more favorable to Russia. The highly resilient Ukrainians resisted each of these through maintenance of the use of the hryvnia, speaking their language and creating alternative education methods to keep their children away from Russian propaganda. In the words of one citizen, “Resistance in Kherson is to pay in [Ukrainian] hryvnia, it is to speak Ukrainian, and it is to continue to educate your children online in a Ukrainian school and not send them to a Russian school.”[82]


The Russian forces were aware of the dangers posed by the presence of loyal Ukrainian civilians with the ability to communicate.  In anticipation of a Ukrainian offensive in Kherson, Russian officials ordered civilians out of the city, couching it in terms of concern for their safety. Broadcast on state television, Putin stated, “Those who live in Kherson must now be removed from the zone of the most dangerous hostilities,” saying that civilians there “should not suffer from shellings, from the offensive, counteroffensive and other measures related to military operations.”[83] Despite these efforts, many Ukrainians remained. A Russian proxy official in the region, labeled those who stayed behind as Ukrainian sympathizers who would face prosecution. Russian authorities were aware that in a battle for control of the city, residents could provide vital intelligence to Ukrainian forces.[84] In fact, during the September offensive, in the northern Kharkiv region, Ukrainian citizens provided extremely valuable intelligence such as the coordinates of Russian units. This information was often sent to the Ukrainian military via messaging app, such as Signal.[85]


The cumulative effect of Ukrainian resistance actions has been to cause Russian commitment of resources to self-protection, separate the people from the ruling administration and prevent successful political consolidation by the occupying Russian forces. These actions were also specifically planned and waged as operations intended to derail the Russian-organized referendums which were to decide if certain areas would be annexed by Russia.[86]


- Military Style Training for Civilians

Usually, for practical reasons, governments are the entities that provide military training. However, sometimes similar training can be made available to people who do not necessarily seek to become members of the military but desire the training for self-defense purposes or possibly to help fight an invader. Private entities typically fill this small niche. There are several in Ukraine, but their effectiveness is yet to be assessed. 

As the Russian invasion loomed, military style training courses for citizens at places such as sports clubs where ordinary citizens learned tactical training with assault rifles and moving under fire as well as first aid in a combat environment occurred and continued after the Russian invasion. Approximately ten of these small organizations existed in Kyiv as of the end of this past summer. One such organization is the Spas-23 Battalion.[87] It claims to have been organized by civilians immediately upon the Russian invasion of 24 February, and claims to provide training to territorial defense groups and law enforcement organizations in the Kyiv region. [88] Also in the Kyiv region are and Tactical Civil Defense which train individual tactical military skills, first aid and operating drones.[89] These private organizations charge people for the training, and their value, outside of attempting to communicate determination to resist, is yet to be assessed, but such places may provide security services with the opportunity to spot and assess potential members for accession into the government sponsored Resistance Movement.

In addition to their resistance website, the Ukrainian government also used high-tech communication through the internet to communicate methods of violent resistance to its citizens to reinforce its national resistance. Within days after the Russian invasion, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine used Twitter to send out instructions for making Molotov cocktails while the Deputy Defense Minister encouraged Ukrainians via Facebook to make the homemade incendiary devices.[90]


Immediately after the Russians invaded and as they descended southward from Belarus, approaching the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, the Ukraine Ministry of Defense appealed to citizens to donate their commercial air drones or to use them to help defend Kyiv. In an effort of national resistance, the citizenry responded. They identified Russian armor positions and passed the information to the Ukrainian armed forces. They assisted in correcting indirect fire, and they even made and attached explosives to octocopters to be dropped onto Russian soldiers.[91]

Since then, commercial off-the-shelf and homemade drones have been used for surveillance and reconnaissance, general intelligence gathering and artillery and mortar target acquisition. They have also been used as delivery vehicles for improvised explosive devices (IEDs), antitank and fragmentation grenades, or as IEDs themselves to detonate on impact. These uses and modification efforts have been led by the Ukrainian Aerorozvidka, which is a civilian organization (NGO) that works for the Ukrainian military. Prior to the present war, in 2020, Aerorozvidka announced that it had successfully attached 3D-printed stabilization fins to antitank grenades which allowed them to be dropped with greater accuracy and from greater heights to reduce the threat of detection. Some Ukraine military units have also used fishing gear called tackle feeders as release mechanisms for grenades to prevent premature detonation. Ukraine has also used the US DroneDefender and Lithuanian “Sky Wiper” in defensive anti-drone roles to counter Russian drone use.[92]

These modifications have resulted in drones used to tactically respond to information provided by resisting Ukrainians to verify provided information and to deliver munitions. In this role, they have become highly adaptable and relatively inexpensive responders to opportunity targets provided by resisting Ukrainians in addition to responding to opportunity targets provided through more traditional military channels. Thus, airborne drones have become a quick and inexpensive method not only for gathering information by resisting citizens but also as a military response to information provided by resisting citizens.

Starlink, the Billionaire’s Critical Gift

On February 24, Russia attacked Viasat terminals across Ukraine to disrupt internet connectivity and thus communication as it opened its ground attack. The cyber-attack launched destructive “wiper” malware called AcidRain against Viasat modems and routers, erasing all the data on the system. The machines then rebooted and were permanently disabled. Thousands of terminals were effectively destroyed in this way, with effects that reached into the European Union by interfering with internet connected wind farms in central Europe.[93]

On 26 February, two days after the Russian invasion, Elon Musk made his Starlink satellites available to Ukraine. As of July 2022, there were approximately 14,000 ground stations linked to the system, and by October there were approximately 150,000 ground stations. Russia has not been able to destroy this capability by either destroying the small, portable, ground terminals or the several thousand tablet-size satellites of the supporting network. Ordinary citizens have used it for internet connectivity which means that information and intelligence necessary to the Ukraine war effort has travelled on this system, to include messaging apps such as Telegram and Signal, as well as President Zelensky’s daily information briefings to his people and to the outside world. This communication has also countered Russian propaganda.[94] The technology has been instrumental in guiding Ukraine’s drone and artillery strikes on Russian tanks and positions.[95]

Further linking capabilities, the Starlink system may also be playing a role in the remote advise and assist effort of USSOF mentioned above. This would mean that it is not only supporting Ukrainian military and resistance activities but also linking what would be a significant aspect of doctrinal US foreign internal defense and perhaps unconventional warfare capability into that theater without requiring boots or teams on the ground.[96]


The value of Starlink to communicate information from resisting citizens to Ukrainian military forces, guide artillery and drone-borne munitions, facilitate President Zelensky’s daily video uploads to both support the morale of his people and to continue to garner worldwide support, while overall helping to sustain the morale of Ukrainians because they are not cut off from the rest of the world, cannot be over-estimated.[97]



As with almost all wars, the war in Ukraine is bringing about new developments in warfare and adjustments to our understanding of war. While limiting this review to resilience and resistance, we have seen modifications of technology to facilitate resistance warfare, the criticality of special operations forces to the conduct of effective resistance activities, technologically facilitated advise and assist programs distancing the risk of physical exposure of US forces, the criticality of internet facilitated communication, and the very open pre-war preparation to fight an anticipated occupation with resistance warfare. So, a short review is in order.   

Because the Ukrainian government is still functioning within its sovereign territory, the primary resistance components reviewed here are underground, guerrilla and auxiliary. Since the Ukrainian law on resistance was signed in July 2021 and took effect on 1 January 2022, about seven weeks before the Russian invasion, Ukraine had very little time to equip, recruit, vet, and train personnel for an underground capable of fulfilling its traditional roles.

Therefore, by necessity or design, we see UKR-SOF, the entity legally designated to organize, train, equip, and direct the Resistance Movement, fulfilling most functions of the underground. The underground is traditionally the controlling mechanism in occupied territory but from open-source reporting we have seen this function largely fulfilled by UKR-SOF based on its own capabilities and its ability to communicate with and therefore direct operatives in occupied territory. Therefore, UKR-SOF’s role as designated by the National Law on Resistance, its own capabilities to conduct activities in occupied territory, and technologically assisted communication, makes this a quite logical development. Considering the development of sophisticated special operations forces in most advanced militaries over the last several decades, this obvious relationship warrants further exploration for both doctrine and policy.

Continuing to review the resistance components, we do not yet know how many people have been and continue to be involved in traditional armed guerrilla activities, but excepting random individual opportunities, such purpose-trained and operational personnel are likely extraordinarily few. Ukrainians in occupied territory have been advised to do what they can and when they can but to be mindful of their own safety.[98] This has allowed for much resistance participation to occur from the bottom up, naturally, and creatively, complementing directed activities from the top down.

However, regarding the auxiliary component, the high level of national resilience, defiant resistance and existing communication capability means that the component we have traditionally labeled as auxiliary, not counting the auxiliary functions which may require specific training or knowledge of tradecraft, is very large and has provided a great value to Ukraine’s war effort. In fact, Ukraine’s resistance law urges all citizens to contribute to resistance in an auxiliary role. Probably its most valuable contributions have been in the realm of information, including use of drones to help accurately direct Ukrainian artillery against Russian targets or simply using social media apps to call in movements of Russian forces, or perhaps calling in battle damage assessments after Ukrainian strikes. This information flow has apparently been vital to successful Ukrainian operations. Historically, the provision of information has been perhaps the most critical capability of an auxiliary.[99]

Contributing to and nurturing the existence of a broad auxiliary component has been Ukrainian resiliency. It has been strong both pre and post invasion. The greater is national resilience, the greater is the breadth specifically of its auxiliary capacity. This is because the auxiliary component is a concept that stretches to reach the ordinary citizen who is not a soldier and does not have a paid or official position in the government or military. It can stretch to include anyone with the desire, capability, and opportunity to assist the struggle, such as the twenty-something with a camera on his drone who reports his observation of Russian movements to the Ukrainian military or the person in occupied territory walking her dog who uses the texting function on her phone to send information about recently appearing Russian military equipment in her neighborhood.

Hence, the overwhelming majority of Ukrainian citizens can contribute to the resistance through some traditionally auxiliary functions, but most usefully through the provision of information. Also as previously mentioned, this strong resiliency has been part of the formation of a national identity separate from that of Russia, forming at an increased pace over the past two decades. The present war, like the Ukrainian war against the Soviets in the mid-twentieth century, will further refine and define Ukrainian national identity. This will render much information for research and assessment of national identity formation and its relationship to resistance.

This large auxiliary capacity leads us to the concept of legitimacy.[100] Ukraine’s broad auxiliary potential is nurtured by its broad acceptance of the legitimacy of national resistance. Legitimacy is not a signed piece of paper or the ruling of an authoritative body, but rather exists in the minds of people. It is a form of acceptance. The communication and acceptance of legitimacy is critical to conducting a successful resistance.[101] Ukraine laid the foundation for a legitimate resistance with its National Resistance Law for acceptance by its domestic population and its external partners. That law established a national legal framework for both general national resistance by its citizenry in a whole-of-society or comprehensive defense approach, and by a specifically established Resistance Movement led by UKR-SOF.[102] Further, resistance is a form of irregular warfare and as such, legitimacy is central to its success. The legitimacy battle is fought by the resisting government and nation to build its legitimacy while eroding the legitimacy of its opponent.; “Legitimacy is also at the root of societal and political resilience and to resistance efforts against stronger foes. Indeed, the focus on legitimacy is the most important component of irregular warfare.”[103]

A potential weakness of Ukraine’s efforts against the Russians, which may make itself felt later in the information environment, while also affecting the legitimacy of such actions, is whether the Ukrainian government has established a legal process for the killing of non-combatant collaborators through assassination. Without making a moral or ethical judgment on such actions by a government and a nation fighting an apparent existential threat, these activities can be better accepted, possibly legitimized, and supported, if a process identifying the evidence for its necessity is supported by sound reasoning and justification and can withstand scrutiny under domestic and international law.[104]   

Among its external supporters and pertinent to resistance, has been the role of the US military. The US, through its remote advise and assist capability, combined with its provision of intelligence, has added great value by timely identification of targets, as well as information regarding movements of Russian forces. Its remote advise and assist role to aid UKR-SOF can be assumed to also aid activities by the Resistance Movement. When US special operations forces assist Ukraine to defend unoccupied territory, they are doctrinally engaging in foreign internal defense (FID). However, if they assist UKR-SOF and its Resistance Movement to conduct operations in territory newly occupied by the Russians or occupied since 2014, they may be engaging in aspects of unconventional warfare (UW). Respectively, FID fosters resilience and UW empowers resistance.[105] Such remote engagement augers a new technologically facilitated capability for the engagement of our special operations forces as well as raising potential policy questions in the application of this doctrine.

The Ukrainians have also demonstrated the creative use of non-governmental organizations to provide government approved training as part of civilian accession into their defense structure, and for combat support, such as Aerorozvidka. Such training can be pertinent to their resistance organization while also providing a vetting opportunity. Ukrainian use of such civilian organizations in a combat support role, and possibly even in combat, is also worth further study and exploration. These capabilities can be further refined in Ukraine at the end of this war assuming the Russian threat will continue to exist and can be adopted and adapted by other nations that find themselves in similar circumstances.

In the realm of technology, possibly the greatest contribution to Ukrainian national resistance has been made by the Starlink system. This technology has facilitated communication between resisting citizens and their military through the use of cell phones, internet and even drones. This communication has relayed a plethora of information from resisting citizens which has been turned into intelligence for operations, targeting, and damage assessments. Traditionally, the resistance function of communicating valuable information to a capable military force and to a legitimate government is much more important than its ability to engage in direct action against the occupier. This capability, to send timely and valuable information to UKR forces has been greatly assisted by Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites. Without such internet connectivity, Ukrainian forces outside of the occupied zones would not be receiving such useful information to assist in targeting and operations. Additionally, it has facilitated President Zelensky’s daily webcasts for the maintenance of the morale of his people and their confidence in continuing their national resistance. It has also brought information from outside Ukraine to the people of Ukraine regarding foreign support, to help sustain their national resistance. This technological connectivity facilitating the open exchange of information with and among a nation under partial occupation during wartime necessitates further exemplification of its value and the study of options for similar future situations.

While acknowledging the awful death and devastation wrought by the unjust attack by Russia on Ukraine, the war has produced resistance warfare and has brought about the opportunity to study its development. It is a form of irregular warfare that Ukraine, a partially occupied country, has deftly combined with the conventional warfare of its armed forces, while the US has honed its remote advise and assist capability for its special operations forces. Lessons must quickly be learned (not just written) and properly contextualized for the likeliest next chapter; Taiwan.


End Notes:


[1] Otto C. Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept, MacDill AFB: Joint Special Operations University, 2020.

[2] Otto C. Fiala, “Resistance Resurgent: Resurrecting a Method of Irregular Warfare in Great Power Competition,” Special Operations Journal, 2021,

[3] Vladimir Putin, ”On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.“ President of Russia (website). 12 July 2021,


[4] Peter Dickinson, “Putin admits Ukraine invasion is an Imperial War to ‘return’ Russian land.” Atlantic Council. 22 June 2022.

[5] Morgan Chalfont and Laura Kelly, “100 Days of War: Where Ukraine Stands in Its Fight Against Russia.” The Hill. 3 June 2022,

[6] Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept, pp. 7-17.

[7] Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept, p. 5.

[9] Yehuda Bauer, “The Russo–Ukrainian War Through a Historian’s Eyes.” Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs. 16:1, 15-18, 2022, DOI: 10.1080/23739770.2022.2056376.

[10] The term “partisan” has been used with positive connotations in Ukraine since WWII, and they use it today to hearken back to their patriots. It will be used throughout this article as well, for ease of reference.

[12] Denys Kiryukhin, “Roots and Features of Modern Ukrainian National Identity and Nationalism.” Ukraine and Russia: People, Politics, Propaganda and Perspectives. The National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, 2015, pp. 59-68.

[13] Bauer, “The Russo–Ukrainian War Through a Historian’s Eyes.”

[14] Ruslan Minich, “Nationalism Is on the Rise in Ukraine, and That’s a Good Thing.” Atlantic Council. 5 April 2018,

[15] Andrew E. Kramer, “Also at Stake in Ukraine: The Future of Two Orthodox Churches.” New York Times. 2 March 2022,

[17] “On the Basis of National Resistance.” Rada of Ukraine. 1 January 2022 (as revised June 12, 2022), Translated online with

[18] Anton Muraveinyk. “The Territorial Defense System of Ukraine: New Innovations but Incomplete Approach.” Eurasia Daily Monitor. Volume: 18 Issue: 179, 1 December 2021,

[19] Ihor Zalyubovskyi, “Territorial Defense as the Basis of National Resistance.” ArmyInform. 2 November 2021, Translated with DEEPL.

[20] “President signed laws on national resistance and increasing the number of the Armed Forces.” Official Website, President of Ukraine. 29 July 2021,

[21] Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept, pp. 85-98.

[22] Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept, pp. 1, 5, 20, 25-26.

[23] The development of post WWII Italian stay-behind forces and the early and later Cold War mistakes made by purported use of such a capability internally during peacetime offer lessons to avoid. See; Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept, pp. 177-180.  

[24] The law clearly outlines a system of collaboration resulting in comprehensive or total defense; Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept, pg. 24.

[25] “On the Basis of National Resistance.” Rada of Ukraine. 1 January 2022 (as revised June 12, 2022).

[26] Davis Winkie, “How the US and Europe helped Ukraine prep for insurgency.” Military Times. 7 March 2022,

[27] A good starting point to understand this process is: Security Cooperation, Joint Publication (JP) 3-20, 2017. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Defense.

[28] M. Chernov, L. Hinnant, D.  Litvinova, “Ukrainians building up resistance in case Russia attacks.” Military Times. 1 February 2022,

[29] Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept, pp. 78, 101-103, 195.

[30] Sarah Rainsford, “Ukrainian civilians train for war as invasion fears grow.” BBC. 1 February 2022,

[31] Julie Coleman, “'Putin should be afraid of us': Regular Ukrainian civilians are training to fight off a Russian invasion.” Business Insider. 1 February 2022.

[32] Andrew E. Kramer, “Behind Enemy Lines, Ukrainians Tell Russians ‘You Are Never Safe.’” New York Times, 17 August 2022, See also; Norma Costello and Vera Mironova, “Ukraine Has a Secret Resistance Operating Behind Russian Lines.” Foreign Policy. 21 November 2022,

[33] Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept, pp. 47, 78.

[34] United States Army Europe, “Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine.” 7th Army Training Command. 2022,

[35] Joint Special Operations University, “What is the Role of Special Operations Forces in Ukraine?: Signaling the Future.” Think JSOU. 13 September 2022,

[36] Kristin Ljungkvist, “A New Horizon in Urban Warfare in Ukraine?” Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies. 5(1), 2022, DOI: pp. 91–98.

[37] Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept, p. 5.

[38] Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept, pp. 1-5.

[39] Otto C. Fiala, “Legitimizing the Resistance.” Journal on Baltic Security. 2022; 8(1): 2-10, 5 August 2022, pp. 150-169., pp. 151-153.

[40] Fiala, “Legitimizing the Resistance,” p. 3.

[41] Robert Leonhard, (eds.) Undergrounds in Insurgent, Revolutionary, and Resistance Warfare. 2nd edn. 2013, Ft Bragg: United States Army Special Operations Command, p 7.

[42] Nathan Bos, (eds). () Human Factors Considerations of Undergrounds in Insurgencies. 2nd edn. 2013, Ft Bragg: United States Army Special Operations Command, p 35.

[43] Bos, Human Factors Considerations of Undergrounds in Insurgencies, pp 45-46.

[44] Bos, Human Factors Considerations of Undergrounds in Insurgencies, p. 35.

[45] Bos, Human Factors Considerations of Undergrounds in Insurgencies, pp 35, 50, 121. See also; Cosgrove, Jonathon B., and Hahn, Erin N., Conceptual Typology of Resistance. (n.d.) Ft Bragg: United States Army Special Operations Command,, p. 13 and David Kilcullen, Out of the Mountains, the Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

[46] Bos, Human Factors Considerations of Undergrounds in Insurgencies. P. 35. See also Walter Laqueur, Guerrilla Warfare; A Historical and Critical Study (1976), Reprint, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1998, and Robert B. Asprey, (1994) War in the Shadows; The Guerrilla in History. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.

[47] Bos, Human Factors Considerations of Undergrounds in Insurgencies, P. 35.

[48] Bos, Human Factors Considerations of Undergrounds in Insurgencies, p. 35.

[49] Leonhard, Undergrounds in Insurgent, Revolutionary, and Resistance Warfare, p. 188.

[50] Simple Sabotage Field Manual, No. 3. Washington D.C., Office of Strategic Services, 1944,

[51] Ukrainian Resistance Pocketbook. Translated online with Such dissemination to a population is not new and has been a part of resistance warfare. See Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept. p. 30.

[53] Government of Ukraine, “Center for National Resistance.” Ministry of Defense. 2022,, created by their Special Operations Forces to support and coordinate the fight for liberation from the Russian invaders.

[54] Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept, pp. 68-70.

[55] Motyl, “Russians Likely to Encounter Growing Guerrilla Warfare in Ukraine.” See also; Davis Winkie, “Exclusive: Inside the Ongoing ‘Evolution’ of Army Special Operations,” Military Times, 9 November 2022,

[56] Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept, pp. 99-106, 195-196.

[57] Alyssa Guzman, “Get off my lawn! Moment fearless elderly couple in Ukraine confront four heavily armed Russians soldiers who broke into their property  – before escorting them out and locking the gate behind them,” Daily Mail, 12 March 2022,

[58] Nick Craven, “‘Put sunflower seeds in your pockets so they grow on Ukraine soil when you DIE’: Moment defiant woman bravely confronts heavily armed Russian troops”, Daily Mail, 24 February 2022,

[59] David Patrikarakos, “Inside the Ukrainian resistance; In Kherson, Russian collaborators are being hunted.” UnHeard. 9 July 2022,

[60] Patrikarakos, “Inside the Ukrainian resistance; In Kherson, Russian collaborators are being hunted.”

[61] Patrikarakos, “Inside the Ukrainian resistance; In Kherson, Russian collaborators are being hunted.”

[62] Seth G. Jones, Riley McCabe, and Jared Thompson, “Mapping Ukraine’s Military Advances.” Center for Strategic and International Studies. 22 September 2022,

[63] Two of the more famous and effective practitioners of such tactics designed to cause the adversary to engage in resource intensive self-protection and attacking collaborators to separate the people from the governing authorities were, respectively T.E. Lawrence and Michael Collins. For inclusion in the resistance concept, see; Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept, pp 50, 193.

[64] Motyl, “Russians Likely to Encounter Growing Guerrilla Warfare in Ukraine.”

[65] David L. Stern. “Ukrainian hit squads target Russian occupiers and collaborators.” The Washington Post. 8 Sep 2022,

[66] Stern, “Ukrainian hit squads target Russian occupiers and collaborators.”

[67] Stern, “Ukrainian hit squads target Russian occupiers and collaborators.”

[68] David H. Ucko and Thomas A. Marks, ”Redefining Irregular Warfare: Legitimacy, Coercion, and Power.” Modern War Institute. 18 October 2022,

[69] Yana Dlugy, “Ukraine’s Partisans.” New York Times. 17 August 2022,

[70] Dlugy. “Ukraine’s Partisans.”

[71] Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, “The ‘MacGyvered’ Weapons in Ukraine’s Arsenal.” New York Times. 28 August 2022,

[72] George Barros and Noel Mikkelsen, “Interactive Map and Assessment: Verified Ukrainian Partisan Attacks Against Russian Occupation Forces.” Institute for the Study of War. 1 November 2022,

[73] Discreet targeting of local collaborators instead of nationals of the occupying power to avoid reprisals has been a historical practice; See Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept, p. 144.

[74] Scott Peterson and Oleksandr Naselenko, “For Ukrainians rooting out Russians in south, patience pays.” Christian Science Monitor. 13 September 2022

[75] Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept, pp. 127, 134.

[76] Isabelle Khurshudyan and Kamila Hrabchuk, “Stealthy Kherson resistance fighters undermined Russian occupying forces.” Washington Post. 18 November 2022,

[77] Spotting, assessing, and vetting without the knowledge of the recruit for a particular assignment is a long-established intelligence practice and specifically recommended. See; Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept, pp. 12-13.

[78] Khurshudyan and Hrabchuk, “Stealthy Kherson resistance fighters undermined Russian occupying forces.”

[79] Peterson and Naselenko, “For Ukrainians rooting out Russians in south, patience pays.”

[80] Rémy Ourdan, “Behind enemy lines, Ukrainian partisans played a key role in the battle for Kherson.” LeMond. 24 November 2022,

[81] Peterson and Naselenko, “For Ukrainians rooting out Russians in south, patience pays.”

[82] Peterson and Naselenko, “For Ukrainians rooting out Russians in south, patience pays.”

[83] Andrew E. Kramer, “Russia Sends Ill-Trained Draftees Into Combat Amid Losses, Analysts Say.” New York Times. 4 Nov 2022,

[84] Kramer, “Russia Sends Ill-Trained Draftees Into Combat Amid Losses, Analysts Say.”

[85] Sam Skove, “US Weapons, Partisans Played Role In Ukraine’s Successful Offensive.” Military Times. 22 September 2022.

[86] Stern, “Ukrainian hit squads target Russian occupiers and collaborators.”

[87] This organization appears to be a private entity with a presence on the internet;

[88] Aleksander Palikot, “Fit For Fighting: Combat Training for Civilians Now Part of Ukraine’s Wartime Lifestyle.” Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty. 17 August 2022,

[89] Sam Skove, “The Office Workers of Kyiv Hit the CrossFit Gym—for Weapons Training; Inside Ukraine’s underground boot camps.” New Republic. 12 October 2022,

[90] Ellen Ioanes, “Ukraine’s resistance is built on the backs of volunteers.” 26 February 2022,

[91] James Marson, “The Ragtag Army That Won the Battle of Kyiv and Saved Ukraine.” Wall Street Journal. 20 September 2022,

[92] Benjamin Fogel and Andro Mathewson, “Will The Drone War Come Home? Ukraine and the Weaponization of Commercial Drones.” Modern War Institute. 22 August 2022,

[93] Patrick Howell O'Neill, “Russia hacked an American satellite company one hour before the Ukraine invasion,” MIT Technology Review. 10 May 2022,,effectively%20destroyed%20in%20this%20way.

[94] Voice of America, “How Elon Musk's Starlink Is Helping Ukraine During War With Russia.” Voice of America. 1 July 2022,

[95] Fred Schwaller, “Starlink is crucial to Ukraine — here's why.” Deutsche Welle (DW). 14 October 2022,

[96] Davis Winkie, “Exclusive: Inside the Ongoing ‘Evolution’ of Army Special Operations.” Military Times. 9 November 2022,

[97] Christopher Miller, Mark Scott, and Bryan Bender, “UkraineX: How Elon Musk’s space satellites changed the war on the ground.” 8 June 2022,


[98] Borys Sachalko and Austin Malloy, “Ukrainian Partisans Describe Their Fight Against Russian Forces In Kherson.” Radio Free Europe/Free Liberty. 7 December 2022,

[99] Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept, pp. 15, 48.

[100] Fiala, “Legitimizing the Resistance,” pp. 150-169.

[102] Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept, pp. 85-98.

[103] Ucko and Marks, ”Redefining Irregular Warfare: Legitimacy, Coercion, and Power.”

[104] Fiala, Resistance Operating Concept, pp. 85-98.

[105] Ucko and Marks, ”Redefining Irregular Warfare: Legitimacy, Coercion, and Power.”




Asprey, Robert B. (1994). War in the Shadows; The Guerrilla in History. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.


Barros, George and Mikkelsen, Noel. (2022). “Interactive Map and Assessment: Verified Ukrainian Partisan Attacks Against Russian Occupation Forces,” Institute for the Study of War.


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Chalfont, Morgan and Kelly, Laura. (2022). “100 Days of War: Where Ukraine Stands in Its Fight Against Russia,” The Hill, 3 June 2022,

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About the Author(s)

Otto C. Fiala, Ph.D., J.D. works for MDFranks, LLC., as a consultant and is contracted to NATO’s Allied Command Transformation as a Strategic Thinker. Prior to that, he was a team lead, analyst and editor for Sensitive Activities Research and Development at US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC)-G3X-SA, and prior to that was a Resistance and Resilience planner at Special Operations Command – Europe (SOCEUR), where he was also the chief editor and author of the Resistance Operating Concept (ROC).  He is also a retired USAR Civil Affairs Colonel.

The points made and perspectives represented here are the author’s own and do not reflect the opinions or positions of any current or former employers.