Kjell “Mikael” Skillt is a 38-year-old Swede who has served as an activist, foreign fighter, trainer, volunteer, and political figure in Ukraine. After nearly two years spent fighting in Ukraine, he’s become Kiev’s and Europe’s poster child for the defense of Ukraine. Russian propaganda campaigns, supported by Kremlin trolls, have slandered him and anyone else who has come to defend Ukraine, claiming they’re neo-Nazis. Despite that, Skillt has become a local sweetheart in Kiev, and now has a promising political career on the horizon.
Skillt’s commanders in the Ukrainian National Guard have noted his skill in combat and his professionalism while engaging with the media. As a soldier, Skillt was on the ground for Euromaidan and its initial fallout. In the midst of the chaos, he joined the only battalion accepting foreigners at that time—the Azov Battalion. Before the Azov Battalion was reorganized under government command and control at the beginning of 2015, it was a politically extreme right-wing organization. Despite the best efforts of Russia’s Ministry of Communications and Mass Media to convince the world otherwise, Azov was not and is not a Nazi organization. That’s not to say Azov was not a far-right organization with some questionable members and origins, as discussed in the Fallout: Ukraine series.