(Kyiv region) For weeks, Ukraine has been promising a counter-offensive that will repel forces from Moscow. In a forest near Kyiv, an assault brigade is training Thursday to do just that, with the promise to “destroy Russian troops”.
In a clearing in the middle of a pine forest, scouts from the Boureviy (“storm” in Ukrainian) brigade play the role of “the enemy” by covering their faces with camouflage paint and donning balaclavas, before rolling around in marshy water to blend in with the environment.
Another group, supposed to embody the Ukrainian soldiers, launches a surprise attack, firing blanks and throwing smoke grenades.
An integral part of Ukraine’s National Guard, the Bureviy Assault Brigade, also known as the “First Presidential Brigade”, was hailed for its “resilience” this week by Head of State Volodymyr Zelensky.
This unit is also called “Brigade for the Elimination of Russian Soldiers”.
The Interior Ministry announced in February the creation of several new “attack” military formations, including Boureviy, headed by the National Guard, police and border guards.
He pointed out that volunteers would join these brigades with catchy names such as “Spartan”, “Steel Frontier” or “Rage”. The approximately 23,000 people who applied under this framework will have to “reinforce” the Ukrainian army “during the coming offensive”, promised by Kyiv.
After more than a year of Russian invasion, Ukraine insists on taking back by arms all the territories occupied by Russia, including the Crimean peninsula annexed in 2014.
“It’s time to take back what’s ours,” reads the National Guard recruiting website.
An online advertisement by the Boureviy brigade warns: “Occupants, a storm is coming! »
“At the beginning of the war, we had taken a defensive posture. Our task was to contain the enemy,” said one of Boureviy’s men, Taras, 41, who enlisted shortly after the Russian offensive began in February 2022.
He fought in several hot spots in eastern Ukraine, including Bakhmout and Sievierodonetsk.
“Now we have to go on the counter-offensive. We have to win back what was taken from us, ”says this former director of a factory manufacturing armored doors.
Although it has a new name, this National Guard brigade can trace its history back to 2014, when those who took part in the pro-Western Maidan revolution in Kyiv went to fight pro-Russian separatists in the east from Ukraine.
Today, the unit has become more professional, with the authorities, strong in Western support, having released resources.
All of their specialists, such as military medics, go overseas for training, Taras says. And “there is a full supply of uniforms, body armor and helmets, as well as food.”
“Everything has changed a lot. Morale is high,” he said.
However, new recruits do not immediately go into battle.
Units include “combatants who have been through battles and have experience, to which we add recruits,” Taras continues.
According to a 21-year-old intelligence officer, whose nom de guerre is “Bazooka”, the brigade’s numbers have been “quadrupled” and they have “Western instructors”.
“In general, the level of training has increased, there are more weapons,” he notes.
It remains to be seen when this Ukrainian attack will begin.
Taras estimates that his brigade will not go to the front for at least a month, because the specialists are still training abroad.