To justify the invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin claims to be "denazifying" the country. Russian propaganda charges that Ukraine is now ruled by the nationalist groups who have been fighting in Donbas since 2014. FRANCE 24 reporters James André and Jonathan Walsh went to meet the members of one of these organisations, which is training volunteers for Ukraine's territorial defence units and fighting on the outskirts of Kyiv. Here is their report.
As Ukrainians prepare for a full-blown assault on the capital, the country’s territorial defence units have seen an influx of first-time recruits signing up to fight Russian troops.
In Kyiv, one group of volunteers is training to join the effort.
“Most of them have zero experience,” says Oleg Magdych, a Protestant pastor and deputy commander, "so our goal is to train them…and prepare them for the front lines". His unit is led by the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), one of several nationalist groups participating in the country’s defence against the Russian invasion.
Territorial defence units are officially a part of Ukraine's armed forces, but have their own chain of command.
“Skipper”, the instructor, served as a sergeant major in the military. Like all the commanders in this unit, he is a member of OUN.
These groups are also at the core of Russia’s propaganda message that Ukraine is in the hand of Nazis. During World War II, OUN actively collaborated with Hitler against the common enemy, the USSR. More recently, its members have been fighting Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas. Magdych says some of the group’s members hold “extremist” views, but says they do not reflect the organisation as a whole.
"Putin is calling us Nazis," says Magdych. "My answer to that would be, we're not killing civilians. We love our country. Does that make us Nazis"?
Watch the full report in the player above.