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Kharkiv region liberation: Story of intelligence's Kraken unit commander

Kharkiv region liberation: Story of intelligence's Kraken unit commander Commander of the Kraken second assault company Cujo (Defense Intelligence of Ukraine)

Cujo, the commander of the second assault company of the Kraken, shared details of the combat missions of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine special unit and his memories of the Defense Forces' offensive in the Kharkiv region.

On all the maps showing possible plans for a Russian invasion since November 2021, Kharkiv was one of the points where the enemy would strike. In early February, local Azov veterans, ultras football fans, and other activists began to unite to resist the enemy in the event of an attack. By the afternoon of February 24, about a thousand volunteers had gathered.

After the successful defense of Kharkiv and the liberation of Vilkhivka, a special unit of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, the Kraken, was created based on this group in March 2022. This is how the mythical giant sea monster was called in ancient times. In April 2022, the unit liberated the village of Ruska Lozova on the Kharkiv-Belhorod highway for the first time under its new symbols. At the same time, the Chief of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine Kyrylo Budanov took part in this operation along with the special forces.

Our interlocutor, Ihor, alias Cujo, is the commander of the second assault company of the Kraken. He is an ordinary Kharkiv resident who had nothing to do with the army before the great war.

"The great war for me, like for most civilians, began on February 24. My mom called me in the morning. I went out to the balcony and there was a cannonade. The first day was a shock," says Ihor.

At that time, he promised his future wife that he would not join the army until he was called up. However, on February 25, he was already standing at the door of the territorial recruitment center to volunteer for the front.

"I came to the military registration and enlistment office and it was closed. I went to the training center, and there: "No military experience - not needed yet". In two weeks I ran around and signed up for all the territorial defense units in the Kharkiv region. Then a friend posted an ad that they were taking people without experience to the Kraken special forces unit. A short Young fighter's course and I was off to battle," says Cujo.


The first mission in which the Kraken fighter participated was the assault on Pytomnyk in the spring of 2022. This is a village located north of Ruska Lozova.

"We went there without being shelled, and the biggest thing I was worried about was how I would feel when there was a shelling. I was afraid of getting jammed. Luckily, the shelling did not particularly impress me," Cujo recalls.

Pytomnyk is the highest point in the northern direction, the dominant height from which the Russians fired on Kharkiv. A few kilometers away was the 200th Pecheneg Brigade of the Russian Federation from the Murmansk region. Regaining control of Pytomnyk was necessary to, first, hold Ruska Lozova. Secondly, it was necessary to push the cannon artillery away from Kharkiv.

Kharkiv region liberation: Story of intelligence's Kraken unit commanderPhoto: Defense Intelligence of Ukraine

"We entered on foot. The forest is dense. You can't see anything for a few meters, and during the fighting in Pytomnyk, the distance in contact battles did not exceed 10-20 meters. Our forward unit encountered the enemy and called for help... There was shooting all around, a Russian MT-LB armored combat vehicle stepped in... At first, we didn't know what to do, because we didn't have the skills. But we won back and cleared the positions, and even took trophies," the scout says.

The enemy was driven out of Pytomnyk within two days. The village was de-occupied on May 10. The Ukrainian defenders managed to gain a foothold on the heights, although the enemy continued to try to regain their lost positions for a couple of months. Judging by the intercepts of the DIU's special forces, the Russians suffered huge losses here - up to 75% of their personnel. The liberation of Pytomnyk, and before that Ruska Lozova, allowed Kharkiv to "exhale," Cujo explains.


"We got a task to enter the village, to make some noise, smoke, and leave," the scout recalls about the next operation, in Bilohorivka, Luhansk region, in July 2022. At that time, it was one of the hottest spots on the frontline.

"The brigade that was standing there openly saw us off... They shook hands with us and asked where we left our things to send to the unit. Everyone realized that the enemy had serious forces and strong positions there. I remember being nervous, realizing it would be difficult," he explains.

However, when the Kraken entered the village, it turned out that the Russians were not there - they had just had a shift change: some of their positions had left, while others had not yet arrived. The special forces soldiers were lucky to enter the village and establish themselves near a local store.

"I remember the company commander was putting people in position and suddenly there was a hit at the corner of the house. "Who's shooting there?", he was angry. I was a platoon leader at the time, and I said: "They are shooting at you". Then everyone realized it had started," Cujo says.

The battle was so intense that the half a day the soldiers spent there flew by half an hour. Kraken had only three injured. Instead, the enemy's losses amounted to about 60 troops killed. Two more occupants were taken prisoner.

Kharkiv region liberation: Story of intelligence's Kraken unit commanderPhoto: Defense Intelligence of Ukraine

"I remember my comrade running out to meet me and hugging me: "Brother! We are alive!". Such moments are very valuable to me. It is the greatest happiness when you come out of a battle without losses. Although each of us is aware of where we are and what danger awaits us," says Cujo.

Beginning of Kharkiv offensive

In September 2022, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, with the participation of the Kraken special forces, the National Police, the National Guard, and the Special Forces, launched an offensive in the Kharkiv region. The starting point was the small town of Balaklia, which the enemy still occupied. Careful planning of this operation and numerous distractions allowed our fighters to advance quickly in the city. On September 8 at 4 p.m., the Kraken fighters raised the Ukrainian flag and reported to the President of Ukraine on the de-occupation of Balaklia.

"For me, the war consists of episodes, emotionally striking moments. I remember Balaklia very well. We were driving our vehicles into the liberated city, and a mother and daughter of 14 ran out to meet us. They greeted us holding the Ukrainian flag and cried. I still see their faces in my mind. It motivates us a lot," says the commander.

When the city was cleared and reinforcements arrived, the DIU special forces moved on to Oskil. The Kraken fighters were able to force the river, despite the enemy's attempts to blow up all the bridges, and drove the Russians out of the left-bank part of Kupiansk. This provided the Ukrainian Defense Forces with a bridgehead on the left bank and the opportunity to set up pontoon crossings. Then the special forces cleared the village of Kupiansk-Vuzlovyi, Podoly, and some other settlements. In the village of Podoly, Cujo was lightly wounded while guarding the Russians who had been captured.

"There were strikes. I remember being informed on the radio that a group of five Russians had passed into our rear. I laid down and at that moment something fell next to me. It felt like someone struck me on the leg. I remember running with my comrade-in-arms, who was also hit, I was limping and saying to him: "We are lucky!". Then I saw a picture: we were both lying on couches in the same operating room. He still reminds me of this phrase about "lucky", the scout says, smiling.

Kharkiv region liberation: Story of intelligence's Kraken unit commanderPhoto: Defense Intelligence of Ukraine

In addition to the regular Russian army, the Ukrainian military was opposed by mercenaries from the Wagner PMC and BARS units. In total, during the counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region, Kraken lost 9 fighters.

Losses and highlights

"No matter how cynical it may sound, when preparing for an operation, we always calculate the number of possible injured. When there are such battles, it rarely happens without being wounded. When I look at my guys, each of them has a personality, each has advantages and disadvantages, and each is a specialist... As a commander, I sometimes look at them and even the thought of losing one of them is unbearable. None of them can be replaced," says Cujo.

According to him, the hardest thing for a commander is to inform the parents, wife, and children of a comrade about the death of their loved one. He always apologizes to them for not saving him.

"But one mother told me: "I used to have one son, now I have more than 100." It's true, we always come to memorial days, and birthdays, and help. Some parents want to join our unit after the death of their son. I always say that I don't take people who want to die. Revenge is the worst motivator because then a person doesn't care whether he or she dies or not," the commander explains. According to him, enemies should be perceived as pests that need to be eliminated.

Between special operations, Cujo took a short vacation and went to Kharkiv to get married. His girlfriend proposed to him, the scout admits. After one of the missions, she called and asked: "Will you marry me?".

"Of course I will!" I say. I am a very peaceful man at home and I put my wife in charge because she is small and fragile - she is my greatest support and motivation. I also dream of five dogs and my own house. I want to build a place of peace for us after the war. To not run anywhere, not to rush, not to decide anything for anyone," Cujo adds.