For Foreign Fighters in Ukraine, a War Unlike Any They’ve Seen - TopasiaFX

007, Jul 2022

Four months after Russia invaded Ukraine, foreign combat veterans who answered the Ukrainian president’s call to fight are grappling with the grueling reality of a war unlike any they have seen.

Many are American and British veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where they could count on calling in airstrikes for protection and other critical support. In Ukraine, the military effort is essentially bare-bones, leaving Ukrainian forces — and their foreign-fighter allies — to face a larger and better armed Russian invasion force without basics, like steady meals, and even some tools of modern warfare that would help them level the field.

“This is way more intense than what I saw in Afghanistan,” said Brian, a former U.S. Army paratrooper, who did not want his last name used for security reasons. “This is combat, combat.”

That reality, volunteer fighters say, has driven away some of the hundreds of men who first arrived in Ukraine to help fight what many felt was a just, and deeply lopsided, war. Of those who remain, some now work directly for the Ukrainian military, which has used them quietly and effectively to plug gaps in frontline abilities, including filling a desperate need for medics.

Some would-be fighters are still wandering the country — their goals vary and include building an online following, getting a first taste of battle or, in some cases, finding others who espouse far-right beliefs, according to fellow fighters. But the most professional foreign soldiers have increasingly earned respect from their Ukrainian comrades, as well as the country’s leaders.

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, especially applauded those who fought recently in one of the war’s most grueling battles, in Sievierodonetsk, saying that their “motivation, professionalism, their preparedness for urban warfare” played an important role in holding off the Russian troops for so long.

The numbers of foreign dead pale in comparison with the losses suffered by the Ukrainians, but the risks that the fighters from abroad face have been reinforced in recent weeks. On June 9, Russia sentenced three captured foreigners to death, and reports have surfaced of at least four American deaths on the battlefield. In the most recent case, the State Department confirmed on June 22 that Stephen Zabielski, 52, an Army veteran, was killed in May after stepping on a land mine.


Trade With Our Recommended Broker - AssetsFX


Within days, volunteers began flying to Poland and heading to its border with Ukraine. Within weeks, the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, 90 minutes from the border, was brimming with Americans and other foreigners arriving by train and bus trying to find a way to the front.

Because almost no structure was in place to sort out who was fit to fight or to help the new arrivals find positions, some volunteers wandered Lviv until they found someone who could direct them to a recruiting office. Others returned home in frustration.

“It was an attempt to garner some support for a cause that in late February didn’t look so promising,” Kacper Rekawek, a fellow at the Center for Research on Extremism at the University of Oslo, said of Mr. Zelensky’s distress call. “It came out of the presidential circle, and I don’t think all the elements of the bureaucracy — military, civilian, what have you — immediately got the memo.”

Within days, volunteers began flying to Poland and heading to its border with Ukraine. Within weeks, the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, 90 minutes from the border, was brimming with Americans and other foreigners arriving by train and bus trying to find a way to the front.

Because almost no structure was in place to sort out who was fit to fight or to help the new arrivals find positions, some volunteers wandered Lviv until they found someone who could direct them to a recruiting office. Others returned home in frustration.

“It was an attempt to garner some support for a cause that in late February didn’t look so promising,” Kacper Rekawek, a fellow at the Center for Research on Extremism at the University of Oslo, said of Mr. Zelensky’s distress call. “It came out of the presidential circle, and I don’t think all the elements of the bureaucracy — military, civilian, what have you — immediately got the memo.” Source: The New York Times.