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Ex-US Special Forces teaching ‘guerrilla war tactics’ to civilians in Ukraine: Report

Photo by The Daily Beast reportedly shows former US Special Forces training Ukrainian civilians in Lviv.

A group of former US Special Forces are teaching "guerrilla war tactics" to civilians in Ukraine to prepare them to take up arms against Russian forces, according to a report.

A handful of American veterans have volunteered to head to Ukraine to train civilians for combat, The Daily Beast said in a report on Monday.

They are based in the Self-Defense Training Center (SDTC), a Ukrainian NGO in the western city of Lviv, which has effectively become Ukraine’s shadow capital since February after some government offices and international consulates fled Kiev ahead of the military offensive by Russia.

“Everybody there who’s training is a volunteer,” said Adrian Bonenberger, one of the trainers involved in the SDTC program, which he helped establish in early March.

“The whole point is to give people training based in democratic and egalitarian principles as expressed by Western militaries for small-unit leadership,” Bonenberger, a former Army captain who twice deployed to Afghanistan, told the Daily Beast.

He said American trainers are teaching combat tactics to the SDTC cadets under “a different type of leadership than you see in Soviet-style armies,” which he said relied on authority and an officer.

Former Army Ranger Dan Blakeley, who arrived in Lviv shortly after Bonenberger rotated back to New York City, told The Daily Beast that the standard training course at the SDTC lasts between two to four weeks.

He added that the volunteer cadets are being taught “basic defensive tactics, first aid, and leadership” to combat Russian forces in Ukraine.

“All cadets are civilian volunteers, and of those who join the program, many have never held a gun. So we start with the basics [of] weapon handling, marksmanship, tactical combat casualty care, battle drills, verbal and non-verbal communications,” Blakeley said.

He said they were making use of abandoned factories, private fields and woodlands as training grounds for the cadets, adding that these settings were probably similar to the environment where actual combat would take place.  

Former USAF officer Jeremy Fisher, who is now in Lviv, said that there were currently between 40 and 50 cadets in various phases of training at the center.

Once they have completed their training sessions, SDTC cadets could end up joining the Territorial Defense Forces [TDF], which is made up of civilians, or be drafted into the Ukrainian Army.

The US government bars American instructors from directly training members of the Ukrainian armed forces. By training civilians before they join the Ukrainian army, the Americans have seemingly removed this legal impediment, according to Blakeley, who denied any official US involvement in the program.

The United States and its Western allies have responded to the Russian offensive by backing Ukraine with cash and heavy weaponry while imposing unprecedented sanctions on Moscow.

In addition, the United States has provided Ukrainian forces with intelligence, including information on Russian troop movements and location of Russia's mobile military headquarters, that has helped them target and kill Russian generals, The New York Times previously reported.


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