Staunton, Feb. 24 – Over the last year, the anonymous telegram channel, “Anti-War Sick Leave,” has encouraged Russians to take sick leave in order to force the authorities to replace them with people who will be able to do their work less well as a means to disrupt Moscow’s war effort in Ukraine.
Open strikes would be even more effective, as the recent strike by couriers in Moscow showed; but at a time when the dangers of going out on strike are so high, taking sick leave as a form of sabotage against the Russian war effort can play an important role with lower risks and thus the likelihood of greater participation.
One of the leaders of this movement, speaking on conditions of anonymity with Maksim Zagorov, the editor of the Holod portal, says his group has helped organize three major waves of sick outs in the Russian Federation over the last year and that they have impeded Russian military production (holod.media/2023/02/23/antivoennyi-bolnichnyi/).
His group, the activist says, provides information on the kind of illnesses that individuals can declare as the reason for absences that doctors typically aren’t able to either diagnose or announce that there is no basis for such claims when these people turn themselves into hospitals for treatment.
And he says that the effort has been successful enough that both those opposed to the war and Russian officials who are compelled to support it now recognize that “sick leave is sabotage” and will interfere with the war effort even if only a few people are involved because none of those brought in to replace those hospitalized will be as good at the jobs vacated by others.
How large his organization is, the activist says, he will not say; and how many people have taken its advice, he doesn’t know, although there is growing evidence that Russians opposed to the war see sick leave as a form of protest they can engage in without high risks to themselves and their families.
Thus, as the war grinds one, he suggests, ever more Russians will sign into hospitals not because they are really sick but because this is a very effective way of protesting against Putin’s war.