Commander of the Ukrainian battalion Karpatska Sich, Oleh Kutsyn, tells about the scariest thing he is experiencing in the war: He died fighting Russian forces during the battle of Izium on the 19th of June



The Carpathian Sich were irregular soldiers of the short-lived state of Carpatho-Ukraine. Wikipedia


Reuters/wider image

The Ukrainian fighters standing in Russia’s way on eastern front

Barely a kilometre from Russian positions defending the captured eastern city of Izium, Ukrainian and foreign fighters hunker in a dank basement. Artillery rains down on them most nights, shaking loose the plaster and filling the air with dust.

At the sharp end of efforts to stop the Russian army’s progress in eastern Ukraine are the Carpathian Sich battalion, a unit of Ukrainians and foreign nationals who answered Kyiv’s call for help to confront the invader.

“Now it’s more of an artillery war. It’s a tougher war, a scarier war, where only people who are strong in their spirit can fight,” said Dzvin, a field commander in the battalion who asked to be identified by his nom de guerre for security reasons, due to his leadership role.

The fighters say they are bound together by a fierce commitment to Ukraine that is now being put to a punishing test.

“Each of our warriors understands that at some point they will come eye to eye with a tank,” Dzvin said.

The Carpathian Sich is one of several paramilitary nationalist groups that began as volunteers in 2014, when Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and backed pro-Russian armed separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

But since mid-May, the batallion’s fighters have been able to sign military contracts that entitle them to pensions and treatment at military hospitals, a move Kyiv says shows nationalist units have been reformed and successfully integrated into the regular Armed Forces.

Russia has justified its invasion by saying it wants to “denazify” Ukraine and branding some of the former paramilitary groups as far-right extremists – a charge they strongly reject.

“I’m not a Nazi, I’m a nationalist,” said Leo, 33, a new Carpathian Sich recruit who previously worked in video production in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

“I respect other nations… I love all people with all kind of colour skin – except Russians. These are our enemies.”

(Reporting by Simon Lewis; Additional reporting by Valeriia Dubrovska, Natalie Thomas and Marko Djurica; Photo Editing by Kezia Levitas; Text Editing by Gareth Jones and Jon Boyle; Layout by Eve Watling)


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