The Ukrainian military’s high command has worked mightily over 14 months of war to hammer the country’s patriotic but sometimes widely different army units, brigades, battalions and other formations into a coherent regular army with proper chains of command, uniform supply, and consistent doctrine.

The Kraken Specialized Unit has managed to buck that trend. It is now one of the few remaining combat formations associated with the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) that matches no official army template, and at the same time is an established outfit with an outstanding fighting reputation.

Kraken was originally formed in Kharkiv in late February 2022. It comprises special forces and military intelligence retirees, football fans, patriotic activists and local citizens angry that the Russians had invaded. Bands of volunteer Kraken fighters helped stymie Russian army advances towards and at times inside Ukraine’s second-largest city with ambushes and knowledge of local terrain.


Backed financially by a supportive civil society and powerful local businessmen, Kraken developed into a light infantry unit of hand-picked men specializing in infiltration, sabotage, unconventional assaults, and is characterized by excellent staff planning and tactics.


Troops from the volunteer unit Kraken pose next to a destroyed Russian truck in April 2022, following attacks capturing the border village Rus’ka Lozova.

In the October counteroffensive, Russian defenses collapsed, in some cases in panic, because Kraken patrols had penetrated deep behind Russian lines at night. They then attacked after Kraken power engineers switched off electricity to Russian positions.

NATO Needs to Get its Act Together Now, Before it’s Too Late
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NATO Needs to Get its Act Together Now, Before it’s Too Late

With the US dithering, the implications need to be recognized and decisive action taken to avoid disaster in the shape of a Russian victory in Ukraine.

By most accounts, the best-equipped and most intensively trained volunteer soldiers in all the Ukrainian military serve in Kraken. According to unit public statements, of every 150 applicants, only “around 20” volunteers are selected to serve with Kraken, and 75 percent of unit members hold a higher education qualification.


The army has now issued them tanks and artillery, and training for assault tasks, but the unit remains technically outside the conventional army because it is manned, trained and configured for special tasks assigned by army intelligence.

Kraken is based in the north-eastern Kharkiv sector but has substantial combat experience in the Donbas and southern sectors as well.


Further information about Kraken is available via their website, their Facebook page and the Unit Promo video.


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Comments (2)
The one with a face.
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the Kraken shall be released.
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Release the kraken