Around 20,000 foreign volunteers in Ukraine to fight Russia – minister

Ukrainian soldiers stand guard as civilians flee Irpin on March 5, 2022. (Illia Ponomarenko via The Kyiv Independent)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Nearly 20,000 foreign volunteers have traveled to Ukraine to join in the fight against Russian forces, according to the Ukrainian foreign minister.

“This number is around 20,000 now. They come from many European countries mostly,” foreign minister Dmytro Kubela told U.S. broadcaster CNN, AFP reporter.

Late last month, at the start of the invasion, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky openly invited foreigners to his country to form part of an “International Legion” that would fight side by side with Ukrainians against Russian troops.

“Many people in the world hated Russia and what it was doing in recent years, but no one dared to openly oppose and fight them,” Kubela said, according to AFP.

“So when people saw that Ukrainians are fighting, that Ukrainians are not giving up, many felt motivated to join the fight” and bring Russia to account for its invasion.

Ukraine’s top diplomat also said it was most important to receive “sustainable, political, economic and military support” from around the world.

“And we need U.S. leadership in this exercise, with special focus on air defense,” Kuleba said.

Several European countries have given green light for its nationals to take up arms in Ukraine.

Volunteers were invited to apply at Ukrainian embassies in their respective countries, according to AFP.

“Just trying to help, protect freedom. As simple as that,” a U.S. citizen heading to fight in Ukraine told CNN.

A French-Canadian veteran said he received a call from a friend in Ukraine who asked him for help.

“I’m a veteran … last Friday, my friend who’s in the Jeep, he called me and said ‘we really need you because you’re an ex-sniper and can you join?’ I said yea, okay, I’ll do it,” he told CNN.

Separately, The Wall Street Journal cited U.S. officials as saying that Russia was recruiting Syrians skilled in urban fight in Ukraine.

Four American officials told the newspaper that Russia had in recent days been recruiting fighters from there, hoping their expertise in urban combat can help take Kyiv and deal a devastating blow to the Ukrainian government.

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