With the Western media apparatus bombarding audiences with a narrative that a liberal Ukraine is struggling against an authoritarian Russia to preserve its democracy, Far-Right ultra-nationalist forces, including neo-Nazi battalions, have been normalized and lionized to the point that thousands of foreigners have flooded into a warzone to fight.
Many of these foreigners do not have proper military training and experience. As they cannot fight properly, the commanders of Ukraine’s military complain about them as they are not useful to the war effort. For this reason, they are deployed to the heaviest fighting points, including Donbass, and as a result they have a short survival rate as highly professional Russian troops are actively engaging them.
As of April 16, according to data from the Donetsk People’s Republic, there were about 6,800 foreign fighters from 63 countries. Of this, more than 1,000 foreign fighters were killed and more than 900 fled from Ukraine. Of the foreign fighters, there were 1,800 from Poland, about 500 each from the US, Canada and Romania each, 300 each from Britain and Georgia, 127 from France and 50 from Germany.
Although they are located mainly in the cities of Kiev and Kharkov, with the international legion coordination headquarters located in Belaya Tserkov, they are increasingly appearing in Donbass battlefronts. About 200 have been taken prisoner by the Donetsk People’s Republic military and criminal cases were initiated against them. At least 72 mercenaries fought in Mariupol, the Azov Battalion’s former stronghold, in mid-April.
As citizens of Britain, Denmark, Poland and Croatia enjoy visa-free regimes for arrival in Ukraine, there have been a higher number of foreign fighters from these countries. There are American private military companies in Ukraine: Academy, Cubic, Din-corporation, Lancaster, Independent Security advisers, Professional Oversees Contractors. From Britain, there is Halo Trust. None-the-less, foreign fighters also arrive from Italy, Spain and Turkey.
With the war in Ukraine entering its fourth month, there are now a plethora of testimonies of horrors faced. This is in stark contrast to the first weeks of the war when it appeared almost “trendy” or “edgy” to volunteer to fight the Russians. Ukraine’s International Legion even has its own website where it provides instructions for would-be foreign fighters on how to enter the country and what to pack. By March 6, they had received more than 20,000 applications, according to the foreign minister.
The number of foreign fighters currently in Ukraine is a state secret, but Colonel Anton Myronovych told CNN that: “The best of the best join the Armed Forces of Ukraine. These are foreigners with real combat experience, these are foreign citizens who know what war is, know how to handle weapons, know how to destroy the enemy.”
Although it is not confirmed, it does allude that perhaps the special forces from militaries of foreign countries are operating in Ukraine under the banner of the International Legion. Another reason for the Ukrainian policy of silence on foreign fighters, unlike in the first weeks of the war, is so that they can limit the exposure of neo-Nazis amongst their ranks. Despite this silence, it has not stopped news filtering out that neo-Nazis from Denmark, Sweden and other European countries have flocked to fight the Russians in Ukraine.
In this way, the foreign fighters from the West overwhelmingly comprise of special forces soldiers, Far Right extremists and at least initially, naïve liberals. What makes the arrival of fighters from Turkey unique though is that they are also motivated because of their ideology of ethnic supremacy, but through the scope of pan-Turkism, which is just as extreme as neo-Nazism.
Although these fighters are undoubtedly highly motivated, they are effectively being used as “cannon fodder”. It is recalled that the Australian government issued a warning on March 15 that volunteers could end up being used as “cannon fodder” by the Ukrainian military. This matches the testimony of Matthew Robinson, a British volunteer who stressed that foreigners “can be railroaded into a legion and sent to the front line very quickly. Even though you’ve got the best of intentions to help people, you could basically be cannon fodder.”
For his part, Kevin, the pseudonym of an American “veteran” from the special forces, told CNN on May 24 that some battlefronts in Ukraine were “literally a nightmare” and that some of the other foreigners were “shocked”. With the war now into its fourth month, the flow of foreign fighters has slowed down after the initial enthusiasm, but those still making their way are either extremists, such as European/American Neo-Nazis and Turkish Grey Wolves, or the special forces of Western countries posing under guises. With testimonies like Robinson and Kevin becoming all too familiar now, the only foreigners making their way to Ukraine today are the most Russophobic racists and extremists.
Paul Antonopoulos, independent geopolitical analyst