War as a Purpose: Young Ukrainians in Neo-Nazi Training Camp
Thousands of Ukrainian children have been poisoned by the neo-Nazi ideology in the years since the Maidan Uprising. Grown-ups have consistently taught them hatred, calling it patriotism. To that end, the country established a whole network of children’s camps, whose instructors had served as punishers in the Donbass.
‘Let Moscow Lie in Ruins!’
In 2017, the American TV network NBC aired a story about the Azovets children’s summer camp near Kiev. Children living in the Ukrainian capital and nearby districts spent their vacations there.
At first glance, there was nothing “criminal” about the camp’s program: drills, military training, the reconstruction of battles, and survival skills. However, the main purpose of the program was to instil an aggressive ideological narrative among these young Ukrainian patriots. A video shot by an NBC journalist showed children chanting inspirationally:
“What is our motto? We are the children of Ukraine! Let Moscow lie in ruins, we don’t care! We will conquer the whole world! Death to Russkies!”
This was their motto. This is what their “big brothers”, instructors from the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, taught them.
The purpose of their mission was clearly designated: to wage war on Russians, to destroy the Russians as their main and worst enemy. This is how they were indoctrinated with a sense of belonging to the “great cause”.
NBC presented an interview with the camp instructors. They discuss their mission: “The children don’t know what war is, and we have to tell them what it is, because retaking Crimea and taking over Kuban are ahead of us.” Kuban is a historical and geographical region of Southern Russia located mostly in the Krasnodar region. Their plans were clearly outlined.
“Their instructor gives advice: don’t think of your target as a person. Therefore, when these boys and girls shoot, they will shoot to kill. Most of them are teenagers, but some are as young as 8 years old. They are in a summer camp set up by one of Ukraine’s radical nationalist groups, hidden in a forest in the west of the country,” thus begins a piece by the Associated Press, whose journalists visited the Zakalka voli (Gart voli, Ukr.), a children’s military camp.
“We never point weapons at people. But we don’t consider the Donetsk people, separatists, the Novorossians, the green men, and the Moscow occupants to be people. So we can and should aim at them,” instructor Yury “Chernota” Cherkashin instructs the children shamelessly on camera.
Footage from an Associated Press story about children’s military camps.
Even the biased report by Radio Liberty (a media outlet functioning as a foreign agent) about Azovets and the facts presented in it leave no room for discussion. There is only one association that comes to mind, the Hitler-Jugend (Hitler Youth):
“The morning in the camp begins with a roll call and a Ukrainian nationalist prayer. ‘Ukraine, holy mother of heroes, descend into my heart. Holy! Mighty! United! Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes!’, the children yell in fervor. In this camp, those who have a cold are mockingly called ‘three-hundredth’ or ‘WIA’ (Cargo 300 is a military term for transporting a wounded soldier – ed. note Sputnik), and children often use call signs instead of names. At the beginning of the shift, each child is handed a wooden machine gun. The older children go to the island, where they receive mock-ups of ‘real’ guns. This sniper rifle shoots using a laser scope. This is the first such game for 13-year-old Vladimir. ‘I like quiet engagement, so I’m a sniper,’ the boy explains.”
None of this is new. Here is a quote from German journalist and writer Guido Knopp on the education of youth in the Third Reich in the 1930s:
“They (members of the Hitler-Jugend. – ed. note Sputnik) slept in tent camps and haystacks. Each year about 2,000 members of the Hitler Youth enthusiastically answered the call of Hitler Youth leader Baldur von Schirach: ‘We march towards the Führer. If he wishes, we will march for him.’”
The Azov Battalion’s punishers are perfectly suited for the role of instructors to train the Ukrainian Hitler Youth. Dedicated Nazis form the backbone of the regiment, and their symbols and methods correspond to their beliefs. Torture, rape, murder, kidnapping and secret prisons where prisoners and dissidents were maimed – Azov has done it all.
During the summer vacations, hundreds of Ukrainian children passed through the Azovets camp and were shaped into patriots charged with hatred.
‘I Really Enjoy Shooting’
Many journalists have written about Ukraine becoming a hotbed of neo-Nazism. The media has also raised the topic of the militarization of Ukrainian children more than once.
In 2019, Spanish correspondent Ethel Bonet from El Confidencial shared her impressions of the paramilitary children’s camp “Leader” near Kiev.
“Eight-year-old Victoria seems like an ordinary girl. And her dreams for the future can hardly be called very different from those of her peers: she dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Or maybe a model when she grows up. But the little girl already feels like a soldier. And one does not preclude her future in the ranks of combatants of Ukrainian army. At war with whom? But her instructors explain this to her. Those either who have been in battles against the ‘pro-Russian separatists’ or who have taken part in sabotage operations by the Ukrainian armed forces in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics.”
The journalist noted that “Victoria’s determination frightens even adults,” and cited the child’s words:
“There is only one Ukraine, and we have to protect it. That’s why I came here. I want to learn how to fight. I really enjoy shooting a pistol and walking around in military camouflage.”
In 2018, the Leader paramilitary camp hosted up to 200 children aged 7 to 16 during a 20-day shift. The camp ran for three summer months. Full board was $18 a day. The camp’s regimen was rigorous, packed to the brim with drills. Moving between facilities was strictly in formation.
The daily physical training “menu” included swimming, running, physical exercises, obstacle courses, climbing rope. Children were taught to handle firearms: seven-year-olds easily disassembled and assembled automatic rifles blindfolded. They mastered shooting from pneumatic weapons.
The background sounds were ultra-nationalist anthems. The marching in formation and the chanting of the slogans “Ukraine Is Above All!”, “Heroes Are Immortal, Enemies Must Die!”, “Leader Opens the Path! Ukraine Is United! Victory or Death!”
There are dozens of such children’s military camps in Ukraine. In the years since the so-called Revolution of Dignity, thousands of young Ukrainians have gone through this school of radicalism and hatred. If the goals of the ideologists of neo-Nazism were quite obvious, what did the parents hope for and what did they want to achieve by sending their children voluntarily to a place where they were trained to be aggressive ethnic nationalists?
Family psychologist Yekaterina Sivanova explained the dangers facing children who attend such “patriotic” camps and how it can affect their psyche:
“In this example, the accents placed by adults are important. Children are being indoctrinated to believe that those people are not human, that they must be killed. The child has no right to doubt; he takes it on faith that those are not people, relying on the opinion of the adults in charge.
A person who is so instilled with hatred cannot see another human being as a person, he lacks that ability. This is very close to racism, hatred for the fact that the other is something different. Children who are brought up with hatred subsequently have no opportunity to develop, to become versatile, to see different points of view simply because they won’t accept an opinion (they won’t hear it or see it) different from the paradigm in which they were raised.
In fact, to be fair, we can remember the patriotic military game “Zarnitsa”. In the early ’80s I went to school, we all went out into the fields, ran, the girls were taught first aid, the boys were taught to be scouts and commanders, to read maps and so on. But I don’t remember there being any aggression in that. And we had basic military training in school, we used to take apart machine guns for a while. I still use the general medical training that was given in those classes and then in high school. But it was always a story about life, about help and interaction.
Here we see a tremendous effort to create an ‘enemy’, so that there is a clear understanding of who to fight. An external enemy is always needed to control those people who have been convinced that there is an aggressor who will come to kill them.
The basis of such upbringing is fear. People raise their children with the goal of raising them to be controlled. If I keep you in fear, accordingly, I can manipulate you, I can control you, and you will do what I want.”
Some parents were sincerely convinced, as journalist Pavel Volkov noted in an article for Ukraina.ru, that such camps teach “patriotism” and that there was nothing wrong there. This was what the bunchuzhnyi (a “staff of Cossack hetman”, what they call the instructors in Ukraine – ed. note Sputnik) of the Kiev camp with the call sign “Burik”, bearing the“black sun” symbol of occult fascism on his elbow, was trying to lure children with:
“One squad can include from 8 to 14 children. The program is as follows: over the 12 days of the camp, the children go through 10 disciplines: the history of Ukraine, disassembling/assembling a machine gun, tactics, medicine, rope park, climbing wall, self-defense, an obstacle course, a survival course, and robotics. There are many attacks about us training kids to be like the Hitler Youth. That is not true. We are not preparing kids for war. We are trying to bring them together, to teach them to love people so they don’t want war.”
That is the peculiar and unique understanding of the Ukrainian nationalists’ love for people.