Foreign nationals traveling to aid Ukraine’s war effort are reportedly being duped into signing indefinite service contracts. The Ukrainian Army has denied such allegations while failing to provide evidence of military contracts stating otherwise.
As the nation’s war with Russia broke out, the International Legion for the Defence of Ukraine was formed, with people from around the globe welcomed – and encouraged – to join the fight. At the beginning of March, Ukrainian President Zelensky announced to his Telegram channel that 16,000 foreigners (the number is now estimated to be 20,000) had volunteered.
Some of the volunteers are former military personnel, while others have joined with little to no combat experience. But despite wanting to join the Ukrainian army, recruits from across the West are being turned off upon their arrival at the Polish border, with many claiming they have been unable to see contracts until they arrive in Ukraine.
Those who have persisted claim to have similar, first-hand experiences with the contractual arrangements.
Contracts with the Ukrainian government allegedly state those joining will be under the “same obligations” as Ukrainian men, and that those fighting will be earning 7000 hryvnia a month (the equivalent of 237.37 dollars). Under martial law, the people who sign this contract from the ages of 18-60 will have to “remain in the Ukrainian foreign legion for the duration of war” – many feeling they are essentially signing a “death warrant”, according to eyewitness reports at The Economist.
Of those who have entered Ukraine to fight against the Russians, stories have included reports of poor vetting measures, alongside tales of violence as Ukrainian agents mistake them for Russian saboteurs. A British soldier who opened up about his experience under Ukrainian investigation spoke of guards who had “slammed” his head down, whacking him “eight or nine times” leading him to endure a concussion and heavy bleeding, The Sun reported.
Following the announcements of foreign nationals joining the Ukraine fight, Russia warned of “criminal” prosecutions. Though men joining are technically entitled to prisoner of war status should they be captured, a Russian military spokesman recently said that foreigners aiding Ukraine will be treated as “mercenaries” and would not “enjoy the status of prisoners of war.” Russian sources further stated: “at best, they can expect to be prosecuted as criminals.”
Russian defense officials have further backed this claim with the announcement that they had “killed 180 foreign fighters in Ukraine” and that this destruction would “continue”. While Ukraine actively recruits foreign fighters, Russians continue to warn foreigners of intense repercussions.
Additional volunteers continue to be dissuaded by Ukrainian contractual terms, low-payment issues, poor vetting measures, and fear of Russian castigation, many continuing to flee at the Polish border. It is still unclear how many of the 20,000 volunteers have arrived in Ukraine.