More than 20,000 volunteers and veterans from 52 countries have expressed a desire to join and fight to defend Ukraine in their international legion, an official with Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said last week. CNN’s Jim Sciutto and his team met some of these volunteers in Ukraine.
Their resumes range from combat experience to no military training.
Brian, a 25-year-old resident of Minnesota, served two years in the US Marines in Okinawa, Japan, and volunteered to fight with and for Ukrainians.
“I’m a US Marine. If I have to die to help these people, I will,” he told CNN.
Oskar, a Swedish volunteer, has no formal military training.
“We are here to help people. Hopefully it will be over before we reach the frontlines, before we need to fire a bullet or save someone with medical resources. That’s best for everyone. But if that’s what it’s about, we’ll be there,” he said.
All volunteers receive training. While many may contribute on the battlefield, others may never see combat.
David, a 33-year-old Canadian, said he could help fix tires to keep Ukrainian military vehicles on the road.
“If it’s black and round and made of rubber, I can fix it. One of the most important things about gears of war is to get it moving,” he told CNN.
However, arming thousands of people is not without risks.
“They could be dangerous,” said Roman, a man who checks the backgrounds of all foreign volunteers. “We try to check their biography, try to check their background as best we can.”
And Ukraine not only needs fighters on the ground. Volunteers with combat medical experience are also urgently needed.
That’s what brought Sky Barkley, a US Marine and missionary to Ukraine, along with six other Americans. Barkley said this war does not compare to an insurgency or even the fight against ISIS.
“I mean, we’re talking about the amount of missiles launched across the country, the ability of the Russians to reach hundreds and hundreds of miles and kill from such a distance,” he told CNN.
Part of Barkley’s team is Missouri native Maddie Hayes, who served as a nurse in Iraq.
“I just have a heart for these people. I really want to help them. I don’t see my life as more precious than their life,” she said.
Sciutto reports that the training the Ukrainian military is able to offer foreign volunteers is limited — volunteers will receive three to 14 days of basic training, and it’s not a short-term commitment. Those who volunteer to fight are invited to commit to a year of service in Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials made it clear that this was “not a call for adventurers or weekend warriors”, but “service against a massive and ruthless invading army”, reports Sciutto .
Just last week, the State Department warned that Americans who travel to Ukraine and fight with Ukrainian forces in the ongoing war will be treated by the Russians as “mercenaries” or foreign fighters. said the Russians, putting them at increased risk of mistreatment.
U.S. citizens could also face criminal prosecution, capture or death from Russia for fighting on behalf of Ukraine during the war, State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a briefing. a briefing on Friday, adding that the United States will also not be able to evacuate American citizens from Ukraine at any time.
Watch Jim Sciutto’s report: