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Special Unit Kraken (I)
The War Ukraine (2014-2023)
The story of the Kraken Special Unit begins with the founding of a community center in the city of Kharkiv. Located in the city of Kharkiv, in a building had previously sheltered a Lada dealership, the First Nationalist Hub offered a range activities that reminiscent of those found in a YMCA of the middle years of the twentieth century.
On the ground floor of its building, the First Nationalist Hub offered classes in boxing and other martial arts. On the second floor, it hosted art shows, film screenings, and classes in subjects ranging from handicrafts and “dress for success” to the history and language of Ukraine. The First Nationalist Hub also ran a summer camp where children enjoyed fresh and sunshine while learning a wide variety of skills, both recreational and military.
The First Nationalist Hub was closely associated with the National Corps, a political party with many connections to the Azov Regiment. Indeed, in 2018, when the First Nationalist Hub opened its doors, its founder, Azov veteran Kostiantyn Nemichev, was serving as chairman of the National Corps for the Kharkiv Region. (In 2019, Mr. Nemichev made an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the Verkhovna Rada, the national parliament of Ukraine. In 2021, he ran for the office of mayor of the city of Kharkiv, but failed to win the election.)
While running for mayor, Nemichev set up the (entirely unofficial) Defense Staff for the Kharkiv Region. Based out of the First Nationalist Hub, this organization conducted training sessions for civilians in such subjects as infantry weapons, basic tactics, first aid, and survival in a city under siege. On 21 February 2022, the day that Russia recognized the independence of the Luhansk and Donetsk Peoples’ Republics, Nemichev announced that the First Nationalist Hub would serve as the Coordination Center for the defense of Kharkiv.
On 24 February 2022, the day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Nemichev used his many social media accounts to ask would-be fighters to report to the First Nationalist Hub. When, however, the number of volunteers exceeded the carrying capacity of the old Lada dealership, he moved the headquarters of the unit he was forming to the building that housed of the offices of the Kharkiv Regional Administration.
On 27 February 2022, a handful of men from Nemichev’s new unit ambushed a column of Russian soft-skinned vehicles that had been driving along one of the main thoroughfares of the city of Kharkiv. In the social media posts he made to celebrate this achievement, he identified these volunteers as members of the Azov Regiment.
On 28 February 2022, the day after the firefight that destroyed the Russian column that had ventured (or blundered) into the city of Kharkiv, Kostiantyn Nemichev put out a call for volunteers for what it called the Regional Defense Unit “Azov.” “We only want combatants with experience,” read the penultimate line of the announcement. (The notice concluded with “Women are also wanted to help in the kitchen.”)
Within two weeks, seventy or so men answered the call and qualified for enlistment. On 11 March 2022, they assembled in a snow-covered field to celebrate the transformation of the Regional Defense Unit “Azov” into two battalions (the 225th and 226th) of the freshly-formed 127th (City of Kharkiv) Territorial Defense Brigade. However, rather than wearing either the insignia of the latter formation or the traditional Wolfsangel logo of the Azov Regiment, the volunteers wore a new shoulder patch that combined a stylized trident with the word “Azov” printed in letters of the Latin alphabet.
Sources: This article makes extensive use of material posted on the Telegram channels of Kostiantyn Nemichev and the Kraken Special Unit, as well as the Facebook page of the First Nationalist Hub.
Note: None of the links in this article lead to websites associated with the Kraken Special Unit or, for that matter, any other organization involved in the current war in Ukraine. Rather, they take the reader to either Google Maps or Wikipedia.