Inside a Ukrainian nationalist camp where kids are trained to kill Russian invaders
The campers, some clad in combat fatigues, carefully aim their assault rifles. Their instructor offers advice: Don’t think of your target as a human being.
So when these boys and girls shoot, they will shoot to kill.
Hidden in a forest in western Ukraine, they are at a summer camp called the "Temper of will," which was created by the country's radical nationalist Svoboda party.
The nationalists have been accused of violence and racism, and this summer camp endorses white nationalistic rhetoric against LGBT rights and Muslims.
Nationalists have played a central, volunteer role in Ukraine’s conflict with Russia — and they have maintained links with the government.
Earlier this year, Ukraine's Ministry of Youth and Sports earmarked 4 million hryvnias (about $150,000) to fund some of the youth camps among the dozens built by the nationalists. The purpose, according to the ministry, is “national patriotic education.”
The "Temper of will" camp has two purposes: to train children to defend their country from Russians and their sympathizers — and to spread nationalist ideology.
Here's what it looks like inside.
Most of the children at the camp were in their teens, but some were as young as 8 years old.Associated Press
Mykhailo, 18, the oldest of the campers, said the training was necessary.Associated Press
“Every moment things can go wrong in our country. And one has to be ready for it,” he said. “That’s why I came to this camp. To study how to protect myself and my loved ones.”
“We never aim guns at people,” instructor Yuri “Chornota” Cherkashin told the kids. “But we don’t count separatists, little green men, occupiers from Moscow as human beings, so we can and should aim at them.”Associated Press
Cherkashin is a veteran of the fight against pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine; he was wounded in combat and later came to lead Sokil, or Falcon, the youth wing of the Svoboda party.
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November 27, 2018 at 11:30AM