Azov detachment commander discusses situation in Kharkiv, combat training

1 June, 06:22 PM
Ukrainian military in Kharkiv, May 16 (Photo:REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes)

Ukrainian military in Kharkiv, May 16 (Photo:REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes)

The fact that Russian propaganda and society hate the soldiers of the Azov Regiment is a motivating factor for the military, said Anatoliy Sydorenko, commander of the Azov Special Operations Forces, in an inter-view with Radio NV on May 31. Below is an edited transcript of that inter-view.

NV: As far as I understand it, volunteers, anti-terrorist operation participants, and people with military experience joined the new Azov division. Am I right in thinking that this is also one of the reasons why there was a decision to form a new Azov unit — to irritate the Russians? Because they are sure that now they have captured — unfortunately — some of our defenders from Azov.

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Sydorenko: The unit was in no way created to irritate anybody. We pay no heed to their opinions at all. The unit was created to defend the country, to deter the enemy, and attack. We will, of course, enhance our fighting capabilities to reach the high bar of the Azov that was in 2014, which was in Mariupol. Of course, those guys have a lot more combat experience than our unit at this stage. But they stimulate us and serve as an example of where we need to improve.

NV: You know how much the enemy hates Azov. How does this motivate you?

Sydorenko: I know how much the enemy hates Azov, and I also know how much Azov hates the enemy. I guess, we even like that fact. We should not be loved.

NV: I know that you are defending the Kharkiv Oblast. We remember that the Izyum axis was the hottest, that it was there that the Russians deployed the largest amount of equipment, and that Kupyansk is their main supply hub. What is the situation there now?

Sydorenko: Of course, it is. The fiercest battles in Kharkiv Oblast are taking place on the Izyum axis. And there is indeed a major hub in Kupyansk, and a lot of equipment goes through Kupyansk. As for the current situation, I can not comment on it for obvious reasons. But the enemy is well met everywhere – both in the already occupied territories, and where there is a line of contact.

NV: Do we have an understanding of why the Russians started shelling Kharkiv again?

Sydorenko: You know, there may be many reasons for this. One of them, we understand that they hate us, that they really want to commit a genocide of the Ukrainian people. And now that people are returning to Kharkiv, it seems to them that it is safer in the city. But every missile strike or long-range artillery shot still takes lives, and that's awful. What are their goals? There are many. To intimidate us, to prevent us from rest-ing, simply because they hate us.

NV: Do we understand how many collaborators there are in Kharkiv Oblast? We remember the MP in Izyum from the Opposition Platform – For Life, who informed the enemy of a route to the other side of the city. Can you tell us something about that?

Sydorenko: This agent network had been under development for many years. And one of these branches is the Opposition Platform party, which at last has no legal force in our country. But it is terrible that it took so many human lives for all of us to understand this, for our country's leader-ship. Of course, there are many agents, there are collaborators who are hiding, some have fled, but we are working together with Kharkiv’s law enforcement on this issue, and we are trying to nip these things in the bud.

NV: We are witnessing counter-offensive actions of the Armed Forces in Kherson Oblast. And then (Deputy Minister of Defense) Hanna Maliar said that there are such actions on the part of Kher-son residents, that they cooperate with the Russian occupiers, in-form them of some of our positions of the Armed Forces there. Dowe see something like this in Kharkiv Oblast?

Sydorenko: Of course, such situations happen, some positions are leaked, places where service members live. I think it is most likely done for money.

They do not understand what they are doing, for them personally it is more important than their conscience, so, unfortunately, this is a human factor which we can not influence.

NV: We remember what Russian propaganda is doing, that we are all considered neo-Nazis and drug addicts. It is clear that they call all those who are against the Russians Nazis. But the German press reported that there are neo-Nazis among the Russians themselves, fighting on the side of Russia. There are some units there. Have you ever crossed paths with them on the battlefield?

Sydorenko: We never encountered this particular unit. But we are ready and happy to face them. What they say is that we are all racists, Nazis, eating Russian children, well, they just don't know what to come up with anymore. Every piece of news on Russian television is funnier and stupider than the last. But they are hiding it. For some reason, the Russian people cannot draw any conclusions of their own. They just watch TV and believe what they are told.

NV: What were you up to on February 24? Can you share your experience at this stage of the war?

Sydorenko: You claim that everyone was not ready... Of course, everyone was not ready. But our organization, our Azov movement, we trained long before the war, for almost for a year. We were preparing for this. I can't say that we have prepared for this one hundred percent, but we had pre-pared as much as we could. If the whole government took this whole situation as seriously as we did, if it did everything cooperatively, some measures were taken to prevent this, the outcome would have been much better. As for my beginning of this full-scale war on the morning of the 24th, when it all began, I took my family away and returned to Kharkiv immediately. And here with the same guys, with volunteers, with our Azov and others, we began to defend our city and region.

NV: Do you know anything about what is happening to the Azov fighters who are currently in captivity? Are you able to receive updates on this?

Sydorenko: I can't say anything to you about this issue, because this is a very delicate topic. And I think there is no place for my comment at this point. We hope, we believe that our guys will, of course, be exchanged, we will take them out, but I can't comment on this situation.

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