The Guardian reports a donor-funded American volunteer mercenary group is training Ukrainian recruits with no military experience in “five or ten day crash courses”. The recruits are being rotated in small numbers out of combat units where they’re already deployed due to Ukraine’s heavy losses.
In the heart of the Donbas, a group of eight highly experienced western ex-military personnel are delivering an intensive 10-day training course for 40 new Ukrainian recruits who have been pulled straight from the fighting.
As the battle for Ukraine’s east grinds on, soldiers in the Donbas have been taking heavy casualties in a vicious artillery battle. Ukraine’s professional fighting force, who have been defending the eastern frontline since 2014, are severely depleted. Since 24 February new recruits have been surging to the frontline, many with shockingly little training.
The recruits on the course have a patchwork of equipment: different weapons, fatigues and body armour of varying quality. Aged between their early 20s and mid 50s, the men are of all shapes, sizes and levels of fitness.
One in 10 was in the military before the war and they have had very little formal training, explains Andy Milburn, founder of the Mozart Group, a new private security company that’s tasked itself with training Ukrainian soldiers…
Ukrainian soldiers are given five- or 10-day crash courses in basic weapon handling, marksmanship, fire and manoeuvre and battlefield tactics that would ideally take six months to teach. The trainers have taught thousands of troops to speak to recruits via two interpreters, which Milburn says is not enough for the job but they have struggled to find people with the necessary skills.
Ukraine is not Afghanistan but this invokes memories of the military’s failed effort to train up an Afghan army. And while the Ukrainian recruits likely have more motivation and amenability to Western training, they’re being fed into the meat grinder of a heavy casualty war, against a military power, whereas Afghan Army flunkies were at risk of the relatively rare terrorist attack, and could melt back into the countryside more easily if they changed their mind. So the Ukrainian’s commitment to our war enthusiasm will be tested more severely than the average hapless Afghan’s.
But there are encouraging signs of civilian Ukrainian cruelty toward Russian sympathizers, if you want to see Russia put in its place. Maybe Ukrainians prove uniquely nasty in war–as nasty as the slavophobia to which neocons and others are granting them an exception for the moment would normally presume–and we find this production has legs. Wouldn’t that be good for the effort on behalf of Ukrainian freedom!
Ukraine’s shortage of capable fighters also has to mean more American munitions are ending up on the black market–I think it’s naive to think equipment that can’t be used in the battlefield will simply sit idle, in the most corrupt country in Europe, in wartime.
I don’t know who The Mozart Group is, but their leader Andy Milburn works for the Middle East Institute, a think tank that secretly accepted twenty million dollars from the United Arab Emirates, no doubt to do totally objective research and analysis.
If Milburn’s MEI benefactor wants you to know the UAE is misunderstood, his Mozart Group wants you to know likewise are the Azov Brigades victims of slander:
ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine—Three special-forces platoons from the Azov Regiment, a Ukrainian volunteer militia, fanned out in the woods outside this southern city to practice shooting and ambush tactics they plan to use against invading Russian forces.
After their regiment’s hard-fought but losing battle against Moscow’s forces in the port city of Mariupol, the men training here said they are determined to retake the lost ground and expel the Russians from Ukraine. They are also working hard to shake their reputation as a far-right movement.
“Don’t believe Russian propaganda,” said Vyacheslav Rodionov, 29 years old, a flutist with the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra who now leads a unit of about 20 Azov fighters. “They will bullshit Azov as much as they can, call us Nazis—the real Nazis are the Russian army.”
Andrew Milburn, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who founded the Mozart Group, which is helping to train the Azov fighters at their request, says that moving inexperienced people to the battlefield swiftly is a challenge. “Given just 120 bullets, how do you get a guy who has never fired a weapon to a point where he is consistently hitting the target?” he said.
They are so inexperienced that one of them shot himself in the foot during a training session last month, according to Mozart Group trainers.
“It takes more time than we have,” said Mr. Milburn. “But they’re definitely motivated.”
“a flutist with the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra”! You can’t make this stuff up! Well, you or I can’t make it up.