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Members of the Russian opposition together with Russian volunteer battalions fighting on the side of Ukraine signed a memorandum of cooperation on March 17 in Kyiv.Olga Ivashchenko/The Globe and Mail

Members of Russia’s political and civil society opposition met with representatives of Russian military units fighting for Ukraine in Kyiv on Sunday to discuss their goal of strengthening opposition against Russian President Vladimir Putin, and ramping up armed action inside Russia and on the battlefield of the war.

The opposition figures, which included former politicians and military members, held a joint press conference after their meeting. The forum coincided with the final day of Russia’s presidential election, which gave Mr. Putin an extended term of six years. With opposition completely impossible inside Russia, those who oppose the Russian President’s regime took the opportunity in Kyiv to vocalize their support for Russian volunteers who are fighting against him.

Russian units fighting for Ukraine are increasingly taking part in cross-border attacks. Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence directorate, said the groups – the Freedom of Russia Legion, the Siberian Battalion and the Russian Volunteer Corps – were “becoming a force.” He said in a recent Ukrainian television interview that the groups were fighting well and added, “We will try to help them to the best of our ability.”

Mark Feygin, a prominent Russian opposition human-rights activist, said the Russian Volunteer Support Forum is the first initiative to support Russian volunteers fighting for Ukraine. Attendees included representatives of the military units Freedom of Russia Legion and the Siberian Battalion as well as political opposition and activists.

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Mark Feygin, a prominent Russian opposition human-rights activist, said the Russian Volunteer Support Forum is the first initiative to support Russian volunteers fighting for Ukraine.Olga Ivashchenko/The Globe and Mail

Mr. Feygin said they met privately and exchanged opinions about their actions and how to support Russian volunteer fighters, saying it was the first meeting of its kind. Mr. Feygin said the meeting concluded with the signing of a memorandum that remains open to receiving support from wider groups of Russian citizens and those who can offer their support. Its aim is to assist Russian volunteers fighting for Ukraine through various initiatives, including financial donations and finding new recruits.

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Evgenia Chirikova, the co-ordinator of Activatica portal, an online platform covering grassroots activism across Russia, said the meeting was a “unique opportunity to finally publicly express our support for Ukraine.”

Ms. Chirikova told reporters she’s proud to be recognized by the Putin regime as a terrorist for her anti-war activities. She said she wanted to thank Russian volunteers fighting on the side of the Armed Forces of Ukraine “with weapons in their hands against the Putin regime; we Russians have a real choice.”

“Finally, we have the opportunity to join the Russian volunteer battalions, the Siberian Battalion, the Russian Freedom Legion, the Russian Volunteer Corps. We have the opportunity, and I hope that we will use this chance to form our own rebel, anti-Putin army, which will help liberate the territory of Ukraine from Putin’s invaders and in the future liberate the territory of Russia from Putin’s KGB occupiers.”

She said Sunday’s undertaking – the signing of the memorandum – is “the beginning of our historic chance, because only together we can defeat this evil.”

Ms. Chirikova said Ukraine is fighting for the world and that’s why it’s crucial to support Ukraine and the Ukrainian Forces, as well as Russian volunteer formations fighting for Ukraine.

A soldier with the Siberian Battalion said the goal is to overthrow the Putin regime and put an end to the “entire corrupt system.” The Globe and Mail is only identifying him by his call-sign Holod, which means cold, because he is fearful of putting his family in Russia in danger.

He said his division deals with a range of tasks and worked in Donetsk region, but offered no details on their current plans along the border with Russia.

Holod said he hopes Sunday’s event will bring greater awareness and financial assistance because their work requires money, equipment and more recruits.

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Members of the Russian unit Siberian Battalion on March 17 in Kyiv at the Russian Volunteer Support Forum.Olga Ivashchenko/The Globe and Mail

With reports from Associated Press and Kateryna Hatsenko.

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