These Americans want to fight for Ukraine

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The Russian invasion of Ukraine has transformed the small Ukrainian embassy in Washington into a veritable recruiting center for Americans who want to go fight in Ukraine.

Staff at the embassy, ​​located in the Georgetown neighborhood, process thousands of volunteer applications while also turning to more pressing matters, such as obtaining weapons to defend against brutal Russian aggression.

“They consider it to be an unjust war, which was unprovoked,” Ukrainian military attache Major General Borys Kremenetskyi said. “They feel like they have to go and help.”

The Americans are not the only foreigners ready to fight alongside the Ukrainians. But they reflect the passionate rejection, heightened by social media, of the Russian attack and the number of civilian casualties.

“They are not mercenaries who want to make money,” Kremenetskyi said. “They are people of good will who want to help Ukraine fight for freedom.”

The US government does not want its citizens to go to fight in Ukraine, which raises legal and national security issues.

Since the Feb. 24 invasion, the Washington embassy has been contacted by at least 6,000 people ready to fight in Ukraine, the “vast majority” of them US citizens, according to Kremenetskyi, who oversees the processing of those requests. .

Half of the volunteers were discarded immediately, according to the military. They lacked military experience, had criminal records, or were too young or too old, including a 16-year-old boy and a 73-year-old man. Some people were turned away because, according to the embassy, ​​a proper background check could not be done. The general did not reveal what criteria are used to analyze applications.

Until now, only a hundred US citizens have been authorized to travel. The group includes veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan interventions with combat experience, including some helicopter pilots, the military man said.

They must travel on their own to Poland, from where they cross the border at a specific point. They must bring the equipment they wish to use, but not weapons, which will be supplied to them once in Ukraine. They will have to sign a contract, free of charge, through the International Legion for the Territorial Defense of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government says some 20,000 foreigners have joined its forces.

Borys Wrzesnewskyj, a former liberal Canadian lawmaker who helps recruit in his country, said some 1,000 Canadians have volunteered to fight in Ukraine and most have no ties to Ukraine.

“A large percentage of the volunteers are ex-military, people who made the difficult decision to join the fight to defend the values ​​they believe in,” Wrzesnewskyj said.

It is not known how many Americans may be fighting in the Ukraine. The State Department has asked people not to go to that country.

“We have been very clear for some time that Americans living in Ukraine should leave and that no one should go there,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

In some circumstances, an American can face criminal charges, and even lose citizenship, for participating in a conflict in another country, a senior law enforcement official said.

Apart from this, US authorities are concerned about what could happen if an American dies or is captured in Ukraine, or if once there he is recruited to work for the intelligence services of another country upon his return to the United States, he added. the official, who asked not to be identified because he was talking about sensitive issues of national security.

Security experts say some potential volunteers could be white supremacists, who are believed to be present on both sides. They could be further radicalized and receive military training in Ukraine, posing an even greater risk upon their return to the United States.

“These are people who want adventure, to find meaning, and who listen to the rhetoric of World War II,” said Anne Speckhard, who has extensively studied foreigners who fought in Syria and other countries as director of the International Center for War Studies. violent extremism.

Ukraine may be avoiding some potential legal problems by allowing recruitment only from abroad, having volunteers sign contracts and arming them after arriving in the country. In addition, it assigns them to territorial defense forces, without sending them to the front line of combat, thus reducing the possibility that they will run into the Russians.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has transformed the small Ukrainian embassy in Washington into a veritable recruiting center for Americans who want to go fight in Ukraine.

Staff at the embassy, ​​located in the Georgetown neighborhood, process thousands of volunteer applications while also turning to more pressing matters, such as obtaining weapons to defend against brutal Russian aggression.

“They consider it to be an unjust war, which was unprovoked,” Ukrainian military attache Major General Borys Kremenetskyi said. “They feel like they have to go and help.”

The Americans are not the only foreigners ready to fight alongside the Ukrainians. But they reflect the passionate rejection, heightened by social media, of the Russian attack and the number of civilian casualties.

“They are not mercenaries who want to make money,” Kremenetskyi said. “They are people of good will who want to help Ukraine fight for freedom.”

The US government does not want its citizens to go to fight in Ukraine, which raises legal and national security issues.

Since the Feb. 24 invasion, the Washington embassy has been contacted by at least 6,000 people ready to fight in Ukraine, the “vast majority” of them US citizens, according to Kremenetskyi, who oversees the processing of those requests. .

Half of the volunteers were discarded immediately, according to the military. They lacked military experience, had criminal records, or were too young or too old, including a 16-year-old boy and a 73-year-old man. Some people were turned away because, according to the embassy, ​​a proper background check could not be done. The general did not reveal what criteria are used to analyze applications.

Until now, only a hundred US citizens have been authorized to travel. The group includes veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan interventions with combat experience, including some helicopter pilots, the military man said.

They must travel on their own to Poland, from where they cross the border at a specific point. They must bring the equipment they wish to use, but not weapons, which will be supplied to them once in Ukraine. They will have to sign a contract, free of charge, through the International Legion for the Territorial Defense of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government says some 20,000 foreigners have joined its forces.

Borys Wrzesnewskyj, a former liberal Canadian lawmaker who helps recruit in his country, said some 1,000 Canadians have volunteered to fight in Ukraine and most have no ties to Ukraine.

“A large percentage of the volunteers are ex-military, people who made the difficult decision to join the fight to defend the values ​​they believe in,” Wrzesnewskyj said.

It is not known how many Americans may be fighting in the Ukraine. The State Department has asked people not to go to that country.

“We have been very clear for some time that Americans living in Ukraine should leave and that no one should go there,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

In some circumstances, an American can face criminal charges, and even lose citizenship, for participating in a conflict in another country, a senior law enforcement official said.

Apart from this, US authorities are concerned about what could happen if an American dies or is captured in Ukraine, or if once there he is recruited to work for the intelligence services of another country upon his return to the United States, he added. the official, who asked not to be identified because he was talking about sensitive issues of national security.

Security experts say some potential volunteers could be white supremacists, who are believed to be present on both sides. They could be further radicalized and receive military training in Ukraine, posing an even greater risk upon their return to the United States.

“These are people who want adventure, to find meaning, and who listen to the rhetoric of World War II,” said Anne Speckhard, who has extensively studied foreigners who fought in Syria and other countries as director of the International Center for War Studies. violent extremism.

Ukraine may be avoiding some potential legal problems by allowing recruitment only from abroad, having volunteers sign contracts and arming them after arriving in the country. In addition, it assigns them to territorial defense forces, without sending them to the front line of combat, thus reducing the possibility that they will run into the Russians.

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