Yesterday, continuing into today, the interactive Twitter interview with Swedish citizen, Mikael Skillt, senior member of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi Azov battalion, took place. Skillt’s prolific use of social media has made him effective spokesman for the Azov battalion, one of the battalions ever at the forefront of events in Donbass, giving him a high status as a representative of proceedings.
Age: 38, 13th December 1976
Employment: 7 years in Swedish army, speciality – sniper. Worked in construction industry as ‘project manager’.
Current: Officer, Senior member of Ukrainian Azov Battalion, reports himself in charge of ‘Operations of Swedish Volunteers’.
Location: Skillt spends a lot of time in Kiev, where he was during the interview. He is currently deployed by Mariupol.
Record: Reported sentenced to two months in prison by Sundsvall District Court in 2009, for ‘vandalism, and assault with racist motives’. Again reported convicted in 2013 when he received 75 hours of community service in Solna District Court for rioting.
There was a huge response to the interview, here are the 15 Key Points –
1. Skillt’s reason for fighting on the Ukrainian side, for the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, is that he ‘hates imperialism‘. He adds that he is not fighting for any government, but ‘fights for Ukraine‘.
2. There seems to be some issue, or differences, between Skillt and the far-right terrorist group also fighting for Ukraine, the Pravy Sektor. Skillt stops short of fully supporting them, and has apparently never met, or spoken, to leader Dmytro Yarosh ‘That will be between me and Yarosh, if we meet‘.
3. Skillt does not seem interested in subjects in his own country, Sweden, in which, with his far-right views, you would perhaps expect him to have an interest in. He answers ‘Not my problem, I moved to Ukraine‘ in response to a question on the ‘islamification of Sweden‘.
4. Skillt purports to believe that he is fighting against ‘Russians’, and reports himself as 5km away from Donetsk at one point. Yet, his statement that Russia is sending ‘drunks‘ casts some doubts as to whether he really believes it is the regular Russian army.
5. Skillt thinks that Donetsk, Lugansk, and Crimea, will ‘return to Ukraine‘, does not think Ukraine itself should be in Europe. Unlike the official position, Skillt believes there should be an independence referendum in Ukraine.
6. Skillt says he wouldn’t shoot me, but, in his capacity as an expert sniper, can shoot someone from 1400-1500 metres. He seems to derive pleasure from boasting about his ‘kill count’ – ‘Let’s say that I killed more soldiers then (sic) your whole family have fingers, toes and ears together.’ At one point he adds ‘my soul would give you life long nightmares‘. He seems to enjoy war, adding that his ‘soldier family‘ has been ‘waging war for 500 years‘.
7. Skillt has abandoned his earlier plan, to go to Syria and fight for President al-Assad. As for Ukraine’s president Poroshenko, he declares that he would ‘prefer a more battle like president‘, but that Poroshenko ‘has his full loyalty‘.
8. Skillt joined the neo-Nazi Azov battalion because they ‘had what he needed‘ – a ‘structure and armory’, and reports himself as senior in the operation. Despite numerous statements from Azov about ‘reporting to no one‘, and their links to oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, and ultra-nationalist Ukrainian politician Oleg Lyashko, Skillt states that Azov are in the National Guard, neo-Nazi Pravy Sektor founder Andrei Biletsky is the ‘supreme commander‘. Skillt would not be drawn on Azov’s oft-declared intention for ‘another Maidan’ in Kiev.
9. It was Euromaidan which made Skillt want to get involved, and he reports himself as having only received 4000UAH, around $200, for his participation. He reports himself as having ‘lost 60,000 Euros’ fighting for Ukraine, thinks of himself as a ‘modern crusader’.
10. Skillt expresses mixed feelings on Ukrainian WWII Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, but believes he ‘saved a lot of lives‘ (the first time I’ve heard this claim about Bandera).
11. Despite fighting for a Ukraine going to enormous lengths to make people speak the Ukrainian language, rather than Russian, Skillt only speaks Russian.
12. Skillt expressed numerous, extreme anti-Russian sentiments throughout the interview, he would ‘color the Azov sea red with the blood of Russian soldiers if needed‘, yet declares he ‘likes Russians but hates what Russia has become under Putin‘. Skillt believes the recent Chernobyl forest fires were started ‘by Russia‘.
13. Skillt does clearly not believe in ‘respect one’s enemy’, saying that Motorola and Givi, commanders of NAF forces, are ‘war criminals‘ ‘rabid dogs‘. whom he would kill with pleasure. He states that he has killed ‘over 100′ in Donbass‘. He says he has ‘no feelings when I work‘, and that when he works he ‘turns into a machine‘.
14. Skillt is in a serious relationship with a Ukrainian woman, which seems to have heightened the lengths he is prepared to go to for his ’cause’. He goes back to his native Sweden ‘regularly‘, where he receives assistance, is prepared to take Ukrainian citizenship. As for his own mortality, Skillt seems to believe himself near invincible, on asking how he would like to be killed ‘it will never happen‘.
15. Skillt admits that the Ukrainians shell civilian areas of Donbass, yet attempts to justify this by saying the ‘Russians‘ use them as ‘human shields‘.