A Ukrainian brigade that vows to “destroy Russian troops” simulated a skirmish in the woods near Kyiv on Thursday, as the country pushes ahead with plans for a counteroffensive.

In a glade of pine trees, reconnaissance troops from the Bureviy brigade, playing the “enemy,” covered their faces in camouflage makeup and balaclavas, donned yeti-style suits and rolled in marsh water to blend in with their surroundings.

Then another group representing Ukrainian forces launched a surprise attack on them, shooting blanks and flinging smoke grenades.

Part of the National Guard internal troops, Bureviy, or storm, brigade is also known as the “first presidential brigade”. President Volodymyr Zelensky praised its “resilience” this week.

Bureviy says its name in Ukrainian can also be deciphered as “brigade to destroy Russian troops”.

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The interior ministry in February announced the creation of several new armed formations, including Bureviy, run by the National Guard, police and border force.

It advertised for volunteers to join snappily titled brigades – with names such as Spartan, Steel Border, Rage – saying they would “strengthen us during the coming offensive.”

More than 23,000 people applied.

A serviceman belonging to the Ukrainian storm brigade "Bureviy", takes part in military exercises outside Kyiv on April 20, 2023. PHOTO: AFP

Ukraine has said they will aim to liberate regions that are now under Moscow occupation – including Crimea.

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“It’s time to return what’s ours,” reads the National Guard’s recruitment site.An online ad for the Bureviy brigade warns: “Occupiers, a storm is coming!”

“At the beginning of the war, we took a defensive position. Our task was to restrain the enemy,” said one of the Bureviy soldiers, Taras, 41, who joined up soon after Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

‘Motivation is good’

Taras has fought in eastern hotspots including Bakhmut and Sieverodonetsk.

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“Now we must go on the counteroffensive. We need to win back what was taken from us,” said the former manager in a factory making armoured doors.

This year, Kyiv has poured in resources, soldiers said.

“Now all our specialists (such as medics) are going abroad for training,” Taras said. “Now there is full supply of uniforms, body armour and helmets, and food.”

“Everything has changed a lot. The motivation is good.”

Servicemen belonging to the Ukrainian storm brigade "Bureviy", take part in military exercises outside Kyiv on April 20, 2023. PHOTO:AFP

New recruits are not immediately going into battle, he said.

“The units are divided so that there are fighters who have already been through battles and have experience, and we add recruits there.”

“It has become much better, our unit has grown four times larger, we have more instructors from the West. In general, the level of training has increased, there are more weapons,” said a 21-year-old intelligence officer with the call sign Bazooka, who joined almost three years ago.

Taras estimated that the brigade would not return to the front line for at least another month, while its specialists train abroad.

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