Conflicts & War

Ukraine volunteer unit Kraken says Russia is building up forces in Kharkiv

By Luis Lidón

Kharkiv, Ukraine, Jun 22 (EFE).- Russia has been accumulating forces in Kharkiv amid a resurgence of attacks in the northeastern Ukrainian city, Konstantin Nemichev, chief of Ukraine’s military volunteer unit Kraken, tells Efe in an interview.

“The Russians are building up forces and now there are five new battalions ready to attack,” Nemichev, a former member of the Azov Battalion, explains.

“They didn’t have a chance to take Kharkiv at the beginning of the war that started on February 24 and I think if they try again they will fail again,” he adds.

Nemichev believes the Russian army “now has another priority, which is Donbas, and it cannot push that hard on Kharkiv,” a city located just 40 kilometers from the Russian border.

Set up at the beginning of the Russian invasion on February 24 in Kharkiv by Azov veterans, Kraken is not part of the Ukrainian army but connected to the defense ministry.

Inspired by seafarers, Kraken is the name of a mythological sea creature that looks like a giant squid.

While Nemichev recognizes that Russia has an advantage in artillery firepower, he believes that his soldiers can resist well in defensive positions and repel enemy advances.

“Now we are used to their artillery fire. We have taught our unit how to take the best possible cover in their positions to avoid losses,” he highlights.

“With the weapons we now have, we can stay in defensive positions. We are waiting for new aid, new weapons, and the faster we have them, the sooner we can start a counterattack and liberate occupied areas,” he adds, stressing the need for heavy weapons.

Fifteen people have been killed and 16 others injured since Tuesday amid artillery shelling and missile attacks in Kharkiv, according to Ukrainian authorities, who fear an increase in the attacks.

Kraken has become one of Ukraine’s best-known units for taking on the most dangerous missions, but, like the Azov battalion, Russia calls it a “Nazi” militia and has made it one of its targets.

Nemichev says that “Azov and Kraken are units made up of highly motivated, patriotic people who want to fight and their goal is to liberate occupied territory.

“Russian propaganda has to say something to explain why our fighters have that spirit and they don’t.”

Nemichev, a member of the far-right National Corps political organization, is a well-known figure in Kharkiv.

In 2021, the 26-year-old unsuccessfully ran for mayor in the country’s second-largest city, which before the war had 1.4 million inhabitants.

Asked if his unit has an extreme right-wing ideology, Nemichev says: “the ideology of our battalion is love and defense of our country and our people. Those are the only ideas of our unit.”

Among the unit’s 1,500 members are veterans of Azov, former army personnel and radical football fans, who have a reputation for being undisciplined.

“We have a training in which we not only show technicalities, like shooting or moving, but also the discipline, so I can say that my men know how to behave,” he replies.

The unit has also been accused of mistreating Russian prisoners, a possible war crime, which is why Russia has put Nemichev on its wanted list.

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