A military training group of former special forces soldiers is “adding serious value” to Ukraine’s ability to defeat Russia, a western security source has told The National.
But the Mozart Group's members and especially its American leader are understood to be on an assassination list drawn up by the notorious Wagner Group of Russian mercenaries.
It can also be disclosed that the former professional soldiers who form the “Ukraine Foreign Legion” are being used in key infantry engagements striking Russian frontline targets identified by drones.
While Ukraine’s own special forces have proven themselves to be highly effective, particularly on targets deep behind enemy lines, the country’s military has been significantly enhanced by western volunteers.
Since March an important unit in training soldiers in advanced fighting skills has been operating in Ukraine.
The Mozart Group, formed by a former US special operations officer Andy Milburn, is teaching local soldiers specialised skills from sniping to battlefield first aid.
The organisation consists of about 30 volunteer trainers, nearly all ex-special forces from either America or Britain.
A key requirement for joining the group, which closely scrutinises applicants’ backgrounds, is to agree not to enter combat otherwise they will be expelled.
But they have been so effective in training Ukrainians that operatives from the Wagner Group, which is linked to President Vladimir Putin, are understood to be actively targeting them
“The Mozart lot are adding serious value to what’s going on over here,” said the western security source who is operating in Ukraine. “They are doing a lot of good stuff which means unfortunately Wagner are after that whole organisation, but especially Andy himself.”
The Mozart Group, which was named as an ironic counterpoint to the Wagner Group in reference to German-speaking composers, is largely funded by wealthy Ukrainian expatriates.
The overseas group that does fight on the front line, the Ukrainian Foreign Legion, has become an effective fighting unit after a difficult start when it attracted up to 20,000 volunteers from 52 countries but many with little combat experience.
The source said that group now has a core of British, American and large numbers from neutral Switzerland, who operate with aggressive 20-man fighting patrols.
The unit is used as the “reaction force to the drone confirmations” acting on information gathered from the hundreds of unmanned aerial vehicles hovering over the front line. The unit is then sent in to neutralise the Russian positions with all the firepower in its armoury.
“It is incredibly close quarter fighting,” the security source said. “It’s pretty hardcore to be fair when you're punching through places that are pretty awful. It is literally the action films are made of.”
Two soldiers from The Parachute Regiment have been killed fighting for the unit, which like Ukrainian soldiers has to rely on medical evacuation by road rather than helicopters, which are vulnerable to ground fire and in short supply.
“There are a lot of blokes walking around Kyiv who have suffered gunshot wounds and a lot of them want to get back on the front line and finish the job,” the source added.