Russia reveals number of foreign combatants fighting in Ukraine
Kiev’s claims that tens of thousands of foreign nationals have traveled to Ukraine to join its fight against Moscow are exaggerated, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday.
It released what it claimed to be accurate numbers of “mercenaries” fighting on Kiev’s side, including those who have died on the battlefield.
According to the statistics, a total of 6,956 foreign citizens from 64 nations arrived in Ukraine to become pro-Kiev combatants between February 24 and June 17. Some 1,956 of those have been killed, while 1,779 have left the country, the ministry said.
According to the Russian figures, the largest number of fighters came from Poland, with 1,831 of its citizens joining the Ukrainian ranks. The Eastern European nation was followed by Canada, the US, Romania and the UK in terms of the number of citizens traveling to Ukraine to fight. Between 422 and 601 people came from each of those four nations, the Russian military claimed.
More than 100 fighters joined Kiev’s forces from each of Georgia, Croatia, Syria, Belarus, France, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Albania, Lithuania and Portugal, the report stated. Partially recognized Kosovo was the source of 156 fighters. Nigeria was the biggest African source of combatants, with 85 of them arriving from the country to take part in combat.
In general, soldiers from European nations had a higher retention rate than their counterparts from other parts of the world, the data suggests. Almost 65% of the Polish fighters remain in Ukraine, compared to 45% of Canadians, and less than 17% of Americans. However, that is not true of every European nation. According to the numbers, of the 36 Swedish nationals who went to Ukraine, 30 have left and just one is still fighting. Of the 33 people from the Czech Republic, 14 have died and 15 remain in Ukraine.
The Russian ministry said its data proved that Ukrainian claims about a huge number of foreigners joining the conflict were exaggerated. The actual number of foreigners in the country is dwindling fast, it claimed.
“Despite its effort to increase the compensation, Kiev’s leadership is unable to stop the process of departure of the mercenaries to the better world or to their nations of residence,” it said, commenting on the data dump.
Kiev denies hiring mercenaries and says its foreign fighters are volunteers who want to defend Ukraine from Russian aggression. Ukrainian officials claimed they received 20,000 applications to join its “foreign legion” in the first weeks of recruitment.
In an interview with the British press this week, the commander of Ukraine’s “Georgian legion” claimed that the same number of foreign combatants was still on the ground in the country, with as many as 3,000 Britons alone fighting for Kiev.
The official status of foreign fighters in Ukraine becomes significant when they are captured by the opposite side. Two British nationals and a citizen of Morocco were sentenced to death last week by a court in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), which Moscow recognizes as a sovereign state. Both Moscow and Donetsk said they considered the defendants to be guns for hire, who are thus not protected as legitimate combatants under international law.