Since the start of the Ukraine Civil War, foreign fighters have been drawn in on both sides to take part in the conflict. On the Ukraine side, one such foreign fighter some of you may know is Johnny, or better known as “CossackGundi,” a Brit who fought alongside the YPG in Syria against the Islamic State before joining the Ukrainian military to fight on the frontlines of Donbas. On the other end you have Russell Bonner Bentley III, also known as “Texas,” an American who joined the separatist forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in 2014 to fight against Ukraine. With the outbreak of the Russian invasion, the conflict has further drawn in volunteers from around the world, especially with the Ukrainian military creating an “International Legion” for foreign volunteers. So far, Ukraine has claimed that 20,000 foreigners from 52 countries have signed up to fight. There has already been wide spread coverage of American volunteers heading over to support Ukraine, as well as the several dozen Japanese nationals. Other countries with known volunteers in Ukraine include Belarus, Canada, Georgia, the Netherlands, Brazil, Sweden, Mexico, and Lithuania to name a few.
Just a good ol’ boy apparently embedded with Russian forces in Ukraine pic.twitter.com/XlePvPwfkd
— Borzou Daragahi ?? (@borzou) February 28, 2022
The United Kingdom confirmed today that “a number” of active duty soldiers have gone AWOL and left to join Ukraine’s volunteer fighting forces. The British Army told Sky News that “We are aware of a small number of individual soldiers who have disobeyed orders and gone absent without leave, and may have traveled to Ukraine in a personal capacity,” adding that “They will be breaking the law and they will be prosecuted when they return for going absent without leave or deserting.” Speaking on the issue, UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace stated that in his “experience from having been security minister is people who went off to join the YPG and other organisations: it didn’t end well.” This appears to be the first confirmed instance of active duty military personnel from a foreign country leaving to fight in Ukraine.
— Alex Kokcharov (@AlexKokcharov) March 7, 2022
The UK has come under criticism in recent years for prosecuting its nationals that leave to volunteer in foreign fighting groups. While active duty personnel leaving to fight is a completely separate issue, the UK has regularly charged its citizens who left to fight alongside Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria with terrorism offenses. One such case is YPG volunteer and British national Daniel (IG @dan92_uk), whose father was charged with financing terrorism after sending him £150 while he was in Syria. In regards to Ukraine, UK Transport Security Grant Shapps warned soldiers, both active and former, that they are prohibited from traveling to the country to fight. It remains unclear if UK nationals will face prosecution upon return from Ukraine.