Now you can fight for Ukraine too: Zelenskyy urges foreign nationals to join the war
In an unprecedented step, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has announced the creation of a Foreign Legion, allowing foreign nationals to join the war against Russia. In an appeal on February 27, the President said, "Anyone who wants to join the defense of Ukraine, Europe, and the world can come and fight." it is believed to be the first time a sovereign government has appealed for foreign volunteers since the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.
The news comes as Russia continues its advance into Kyiv, despite a series of setbacks. Ukrainians have taken every step possible to slow down the invasion, with civilians making Molotov cocktails, removing road signs, and even attempting to stand in front of Russian tanks. In fact, their defiance is believed to have played a key role in Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to put his nuclear force on alert.
The brave Ukrainian defense is being helped by western allies, who have sent weapons and missiles to Ukraine along with humanitarian aid. However, it's clearly not enough to end the war, so Zelenskyy has opted for the very rare option of drafting in foreign nationals, which Ukraine's law allows.
What is the Foreign Legion and how can I join?
Under a 2016 decree, made two years after Russia annexed Crimea and began destabilizing the governments in Donetsk and Luhansk, foreign nationals can join the Ukrainian army on a voluntary basis. Formally named the 'The International Legion for the Territorial Defense of Ukraine', any citizen of any nationality can join the unit, as long as they have served in the military, or any law enforcement agency.
"This is the beginning of a war against Europe, against European structures, against democracy, against basic human rights, against a global order of law, rules, and peaceful coexistence," Zelenskyy said in his statement. He urged anyone interested to "come and fight side by side with the Ukrainians against the Russian war criminals." To join the unit, the government has created a 5-step process as follows-
1) Contact the Embassy of Ukraine in your home country and specify your interest to join, along with a written application
2) Collect all documents including an ID, passport, and military/law enforcement service records
3) Attend an interview with the defense attaché
4) If approved, you will receive instructions on how to arrive in Ukraine and what to bring
5) Travel to Ukraine in an "organized manner" with support from the Embassy
Those with past military experience can join the Foreign Legion in their nation's military fatigues, The Military Times reported. In fact, it is encouraged volunteers to bring over combat gear due to the limited availability of gear in Ukraine. The news has been met with widespread enthusiasm, from both volunteers and foreign governments. British Foreign Secretary Lizz Truss said on February 27 she "won’t oppose" British nationals who sign up. "That is something people can make their own decisions about... I would support them in doing that," she said.
Likewise, Canada has refused to stop its citizens from joining the fight. On the other hand, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, "do not travel to Ukraine... at this time the legality of such actions is uncertain under Australian law." So far the US has not commented on Zelenskyy's appeal, so it remains to be seen if Americans can sign up as of now without repercussions.
Nonetheless, the news is a significant step in Ukraine's battle with Russia. Social media posts already indicate hundreds, if not thousands of people are interested in joining up. If you want to, it is advised you first talk to your local government about the legality of doing so.