Ukrainian millionaire commands a battalion in Kharkov

Vsevolod Kozhemyako (center) talks to soldiers from his battalion. PHOTOS: Reuters

Vsevolod Kozhemyako taught for the Russian invasion while he was on skiing in the Alps, returned to war. It is one of the largest grain producers of Ukraine

“Yes, I am a businessman. But now I am the commander of a military unit in Ukraine, “Vsevolod Kozhemyako told New York Public Radio.

The interview with the millionaire dressed in military uniform is in a dilapidated hotel in Kharkov – the second largest city in the country. Once a luxury building, it is now empty and its windows are darkened everywhere.

Kozhemyako is the founder of one of the largest companies in Ukraine for the production, storage and export of grain. He emphasizes, however, that his business is currently in the background and the fighting of his battalion is in the foreground. Because of the wealth of the commander in Ukrainian bracelets, he is called the “battalion of the billionaire.” Otherwise, “Forbes” before the invasion

appreciates his condition of between 100 and $ 130 million

Kozhemyako was born in Poltava and graduated in English language and literature at the Faculty of Philology of Kharkiv University. In 2002 he received a master’s degree in organizational management. He is the founder of the Ukraine XXI Century Charitable Foundation.

He started participating in the formation and financing of battalions in 2014 after the annexation of Crimea and the rise of separatism in Donbass, and together with other businessmen he created a fund to support the National Guard.

The 50-year-old Ukrainian rich man (born May 17, 1972) and father of 4 daughters has the physics of a long-distance runner, according to a report on American radio. In 2017

ran marathon c new York

in less than 3 and a half hours. His pre-war Instagram account is full of photos from ski vacations in the Swiss and Austrian Alps (the businessman is an honorary consul of Austria in Kharkov) and yacht trips. Ukraine’s Forbes notes that his company cultivates tens of thousands of acres of fertile land and employs more than 1,500 people. Kozhemyako also learned about the Russian invasion while skiing in the Alps. He returned immediately and joined the volunteers in the army, some of whom are now in command of the defense of Kharkov. The Russians are constantly shelling the city, which has almost collapsed, and thousands of civilians have fled in search of salvation.

A few days ago, President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Kharkiv and later acknowledged that Ukrainian forces had made some progress in the area, but the Russians still had an advantage in manpower and weapons. “I just came from Ruska Lozova (a village on the front line, north of Kharkov). There was very heavy shelling there and we could not leave the village. But our battalion managed to repel them, “said the commander.

The Ukrainian breakthrough disrupted the siege of the city, some people began to return, and the transport system worked on a limited scale. Russian official media comment that the “Nazis” in the city are preparing for Kharkov the fate of Mariupol – to use civilians as human shields. “The role of our unit is to enter the liberated areas, to dig in and prepare for a counterattack,” Kozhemyako told the Wall Street Journal.

His battalion is composed mainly of civilian volunteers. Many of them are farmers, carpenters, workers from local enterprises.

The millionaire financed their military training,

the purchase of weapons and vehicles. The official name of the military unit is “Charter”.

Igor Kornet, who served in the Ukrainian army for more than two decades, trains volunteers. After his dismissal from the army, he returned to the university to study agronomy and started working in Kozhemyako’s company.

Some of the men he teaches are 20 years old, others are over 50. Most are from the Kharkiv region. Cornet’s task is to turn them into an efficient light infantry battalion. “Without infantry, we can’t win the war,” he said.

The unit has bulletproof vests, helmets and Kalashnikov rifles. They also have reconnaissance drones to monitor the battlefield. They move with their own military machines, paid for by Kozhemyako and other rich people in the area. Volunteers are free to leave the battalion whenever they want, but this is very rare, Cornet said. Our greatest strength is in motivation, he added.

Prior to the invasion, 36-year-old Sergei Dubinski was a farmer. He grew wheat, sunflower and garlic. Now he is fighting at the front and claims that

not afraid to die

“I have a wife and a child. I have to protect them and my country so that we can do the things we did before the war, “said the regular soldier from the billionaire battalion.

Kozhemyako explains that a unit like his can only exist with a wartime law. The battalion receives orders from the army, but acts alone.

When it’s all over, we will become civilians again and return to cultivate the land and build, the businessman hopes. However, the war will be long, he is convinced.

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