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International Legion: How Foreign Mercenaries Became Disenchanted With Ukraine Conflict

 / Go to the mediabankLoad ammunition / Go to the mediabankInternationalIndiaAfricaAs another foreign mercenary dies in Ukraine, Sputnik looks into the unhappy fate of soldiers of “fortune” fighting on the side of the Kiev regime.Estonian mercenary Tanel Kriggul, who had the call sign “Stinger”, was reportedly killed last week by a drone strike in the Donetsk region. He became the second Estonian who died far from home fighting for the Kiev cause.Between September 24 and 29, the Russian military conducted nine strikes with long-range precision weapons and drones targeting Ukrainian ammunition depots, training sites, military facilities, and a control center of the Foreign Legion, also known as International, a foreign mercenary unit created at the request of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on February 27, 2022.”Ukraine is using every opportunity to strengthen its armed forces, including mercenaries,” Leonid Reshetnikov, a retired lieutenant general of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), told Sputnik. “These forces have been actively used since the outset of the operation. Therefore, some of the most well-coordinated groups of mercenaries are formed into separate units, so that they do not fight as part of some purely Ukrainian units, but have their own combat coordination, using their previous experience,” he continued.Russia’s Special Operation in UkraineRussian Forces Destroy Control Center of Foreign Legion in Ukraine29 September, 13:29 GMT

How Many Foreign Mercs Fight in the International Legion?

The Ukrainian Foreign Legion, also known as the International Legion and the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine, claims to bring together around 20,000 foreign individuals with military experience and expertise.In early March 2022, Zelensky alleged that 16,000 foreign hired guns were going to join the Ukrainian military on the battlefield. The Kiev regime also opened a website for foreign fighters hoping to “help Ukraine.” The Russian Ministry of Defense reported at the time that the US military intelligence had kicked off a massive campaign to recruit private military contractors (PMC) for the Kiev regime.However, a year later, a US mainstream newspaper published the results of its investigation into the foreign “volunteer drive” in Ukraine, revealing that the Ukrainian International Legion has in fact only 1,500 members, a far cry from the initially announced figures. It also turned out that many foreigners lack both military experience and expertise.Russia’s Special Operation in UkraineBrits Returning From Ukraine’s Foreign Legion Report Being Used as ‘Cannon-Fodder’31 May 2022, 17:36 GMT

How Much Do Mercenaries Earn?

According to German media, Ukrainian International Legion recruits are paid about €500 ($526) a month; those of them who fight on the frontline reportedly receive a salary of €3,000 ($3,159) per month.”Since Ukraine is financed by the collective West, primarily by the United States of America and other European countries, it is not a particular problem to finance the legion. Billions of dollars are allocated for military support of Ukraine. Therefore, the International Legion also gets all this. That is, it comes from the general fund, which Kiev receives from the West,” explained Reshetnikov.Still, there were reports saying that foreign hirelings had to buy weapons and gear at top dollar, since they weren’t provided these necessities by Kiev.”Give us some f*****g weapons please,” James Vasquez, 47, a US military veteran, wrote on Twitter in April 2022. “We will not win with trash weapons. We need M-16s, M-4s, ACOGs, red dots, ammunition, ammunition, ammunition, javelins, f*****g old AT-4s I know are probably in some storage unit. Frag grenades, and if not… may as well bring body bags.”Former legion mercenaries also went on to complain about corruption in Ukrainian military ranks and problems with salary payments. For its part, the US press has cited problems with fundraising for arming “volunteers” and Ukrainian fighters, money waste and mysteriously vanished shipments.AmericasUS Seemingly More Worried About Ukraine’s Corruption Than Publicly Admits14:24 GMTA significant number of foreign soldiers of fortune came to Ukraine to earn money; but there is also an ideological component, according to Reshetnikov.”As a rule, [they are] those who share certain views are Nazi, National Socialist or, as we say, fascist, extremely radical views,” said the Russian intelligence veteran. “If you ask and look, analyze the views of mercenaries, in addition to the material component, many have such views that are close to them – the views of Ukrainian nationalists. Many of them are Russophobes, well, brought up in the spirit of their American, Estonian or any other propaganda.”

Why Has the Foreign Legion Proven Ineffective?

Neither the Ukrainian International Legion nor other merc units fighting for the Kiev regime has ever been reported achieving any substantial results on the battlefield. Instead, the story of foreign mercenary movement in Ukraine has been mired in controversies, scandals and apparent crimes.Per a US newspaper, one of the problems was that none of the foreign “volunteers” had been properly vetted. The media cited a legion official as saying that it took about 10 minutes to check each individual’s background. As a result, people with “problematic pasts” and fabricated military records flooded the legion’s ranks.

For example, one of the leading positions in the legion was occupied by a Polish citizen previously convicted in Ukraine for weapons violations. According to the media, he stole ammunition, harassed women and threatened soldiers. Another one, Ben Lackey, a former legion fighter told his fellows that he was a Marine only to acknowledge later that he had lied. Craig Lang, who indeed had military experience, joined the Ukrainian Legion while being charged with double murder in Florida. Prior to that, Lang fought alongside Right Sector* extremists in eastern Ukraine.

The Counter Extremism Project, a DC-based think tank, concluded in March that the legion and related foreign fighter groups in Ukraine “continue to feature individuals widely seen as unfit to perform their duties.”Meanwhile, Jordan Chadwick, a 31-year-old Brit who had reportedly served in the Foreign Legion, was said to be discovered dead in the territory controlled by Ukraine with his hands tied behind his back. He is believed to be killed by a fellow fighter, much in the same vein as British merc Daniel Burke, whose body was found 44 kilometers away from the frontline.Even experienced US military veterans have turned out to be incapable of sorting things out. Per the press, Malcolm Nance, a former navy veteran, went to Ukraine in 2022 and attempted to bring order and discipline to the legion. Alas, soon he became mired “in the chaos” and internal “power struggle” engulfing the structure, the American newspaper admitted.WorldUK ‘Hired Gun’ in Ukraine Found Dead in Pond, Hands Tied Behind Back9 September, 14:24 GMT

Why Do Mercenaries Leave the Legion’s Ranks?

Despite being enthusiastic about spilling some Russian blood at the beginning of the Ukraine conflict, many foreign soldiers of fortune soon fled the country, citing lack of discipline, logistical problems, ammo shortage, bad morale and highly intensive fighting.John McIntyre, a former US Army private first class who was reportedly ousted from the Ukrainian Foreign Legion for “bad behavior,” told the Russian press in February about his disenchantment with the Ukrainian cause and the strong Nazi influence in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. “When I came, I was really surprised. Everybody had tattoos and Nazi symbolism,” the US fighter said.McIntyre said that Ukrainian forces committed war crimes, adding that Ukrainian and foreign fighters who raised the red flag about the abuses were treated worse than spies. Some were “shot in the back of the head,” according to him.Russia’s Special Operation in Ukraine’This Was S***’: German Merc Warns About Chilling Reality of Fighting in Ukraine4 May, 16:55 GMTBundeswehr veteran Jonas Kratzenberg shared a similar experience with the German press in May, describing war crimes committed by the Ukrainian military. He also cited “corruption”, lack of professionalism and organization in the Ukrainian units. Per him, the Ukrainian military leadership treated the Foreign Legion poorly.”Many of us were poorly paid or not paid at all. It was hard for us to defend ourselves because we could not speak Russian or Ukrainian. However, my unit was not wiped out. After the first losses, we were mostly sent to areas that were less dangerous. But I also saw footage of a commander who saw volunteers only as cannon fodder,” Kratzenberg said.For his part, David Bramlette, an experienced US Army Ranger, described highly-intensive fighting in the Ukrainian conflict zone while speaking to the US press in July: “The worst day in Afghanistan and Iraq is a great day in Ukraine.”Bramlette lamented the fact that the military units fighting on Kiev’s side aren’t in control of the situation. According to him, communications aren’t reliable; there’s neither air support, nor artillery support; while the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assistance is limited.All in all, since the beginning of the special military operation, nearly 12,000 mercenaries from 84 countries have arrived, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense. Of them, roughly 5,000 were killed in the conflict zone and others fled Ukraine. Presently, there are around 2,000 foreign mercenaries still fighting for the Kiev regime.US Vet Who Volunteered to Fight in Ukraine Details Kiev’s War Crimes, Presence of Jihadi Militants31 March 2022, 18:54 GMT

Other Side of the Coin

In addition to all sorts of hired guns and foreign thugs, there are professional NATO soldiers who are fighting in Ukraine, according to Reshetnikov.”Some of them are professionals under the guise of mercenaries, who have been sent [to Ukraine] as if ‘on vacation’ or ‘on leave’,” the SVR veteran pointed out. “Well, apparently, the Ukrainian military leadership believes that individual detachments of mercenaries are combat-ready enough to constitute some kind of force, so they form separate units from them. I think that there are also other units there, smaller ones, consisting entirely of mercenaries. But, I repeat, the term ‘mercenary’ is quite conditional. Many of them are sent as professional military personnel under the guise of mercenaries at the request of the Ukrainian side.”These are basically individuals with military experience, and even with military education, according to Reshetnikov.Still, the unfolding counteroffensive has proven lethal for the Ukrainian military and foreign hired guns alike. Even though Zelensky has claimed that the Ukrainian forces will continue their “offensive” operations through the winter, the consensus among Western military observers is that the Kiev regime may fight for just another month. After that, weather conditions, depleted stockpiles and lack of manpower is likely to bring the Ukrainian “advance” to naught.*Right Sector is an extremist organization banned in Russia.

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