Britons preparing to travel to Ukraine to join the military fight against Russia’s invasion have told Sky News they are willing to die to defeat Vladimir Putin’s army.
Hundreds of British volunteers are expected to take up arms to defend Ukraine, with some having already arrived in the country, according to the commander of a foreign legion of fighters.
Several people turned up to enrol at the Ukrainian embassy in London on Monday, after Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she would “absolutely” support British nationals who chose to go to help fight against the Russian invasion.
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Among those outside the embassy were friends Leon Dawson and Tom Konarzewski who plan to join Ukraine’s defence effort despite having no military experience.
Mr Dawson, who runs a gym in Molesey, Surrey, told Sky News: “We’re young, strong, fit men and we can help, so why not?
“We’ve been watching the news, we’ve been seeing what’s happening. We just thought we could make a difference so we’ve come to help.”
Mr Dawson, 37, said he was prepared to lose his life fighting to defend Ukraine.
“We don’t want to die,” he said. “We’re obviously scared. But if we’re scared, we can imagine how the innocent women and children feel.
“I can’t sit here and just let that happen.
“In years to come, I think a lot of young men in our position will regret not being involved and not helping.”
Mr Dawson and Mr Konarzewski said they plan to leave the UK on Thursday and travel to Berlin before making their way to Ukraine by train.
Mr Konarzewski, who is originally from Poland and runs a dog care business, told Sky News he wanted to “make a difference” in Ukraine.
“What we’ve seen on the TV, in my opinion, is wrong,” he said.
“We’d like to get over there as soon as possible.”
Ex-Territorial Army member, 60, volunteers to fight Russia
Brian Grove, 60, said he was ready to “get on the plane tomorrow” to help Ukraine’s military, having previously served in the Territorial Army.
Asked if he was willing to risk his own life in Ukraine, Mr Grove, from Sittingbourne in Kent, replied: “Well somebody has to.
“At the moment, we’ve got businesses in this country and in Germany that are funding Putin’s war by trading with Russia.
“They are collaborators. They will be seen exactly that way.”
A member of staff from the embassy handed out sheets of paper to those wishing to join Ukraine’s army, containing a phone number and an email address for a contact co-ordinating the volunteers.
As well as Britons, nationals from Hungary and Iran were among those volunteering to join the fight against Russia.
Akos Horvath, from Hungary, said he was willing to put his life on the line to defend Ukraine.
He told Sky News: “I know where I’m going is not going to be a picnic.
“This is war and I have a chance that I will die.”
Asked why he wanted to join the Ukrainian army, an Iranian man, who did not give his name, replied: “Because I hate Putin.”
‘More than 100’ British volunteer fighters planning to fight Russia
A Georgian war veteran who is commanding a foreign legion of fighters in Ukraine told Sky News he was aware of more than 100 British volunteers preparing to travel to the country to fight Russia.
Mamuka Mamulashvili, commander of the Georgian National Legion, said some Britons were already in Ukraine and he expected the rest to arrive within days.
Most are ex-members of the military and he anticipated the number of British volunteer fighters in Ukraine to eventually top 300, he added.
“Everybody who is coming here, they already know the potential threats,” Mr Mamulashvili said.
“They know what they’re signing up to.
“We can all lose our lives here in Ukraine but it’s worth it to fight for freedom and for something good.”
He added: “Russia is already defeated but physically it will defeated very soon. I’m sure of it.
“The next 10 days will be hell for them in the land of Ukraine.”
Aid group receives ‘hundreds’ of requests to join Ukraine army
Harry Jackson, who founded UK Aid for Ukraine, said “hundreds” of people had contacted the group wanting to travel to Ukraine to join the military fight against Russia.
“A lot of guys potentially wouldn’t come home. That’s a horrible idea,” he told Sky News.
“Certainly some of the messages on that group are: ‘I’m alone, I’m single, I’m 45 years old, I don’t have military experience, I’m happy to go over there and fight, it doesn’t matter that much if I don’t come back.’ It’s shocking really.
“It’s crazy for me to see people are willing to give their lives potentially.”
Mr Jackson, from Bedford, said he was directing any requests to join the military effort to the Ukrainian embassy.
The 27-year-old, whose Polish fiancée has an aunt from Ukraine, is focused on delivering aid and a team of around seven people will leave the UK this weekend in a truck containing medical supplies.
Defence secretary urges Britons not to travel to Ukraine
The Kremlin has claimed that Mr Putin decided to put Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert following comments made by Ms Truss.
However, on Monday, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace urged Britons not to travel to Ukraine to join the fighting as he said the “very dangerous” situation could lead to them being killed.
Mr Wallace told Sky News he did not “want to see British people killed any more than I want to see Ukrainians” and there were “better ways” for Britons to help.
He said this could be through donating money through the Ukrainian embassy to be spent on weaponry and aid, or to volunteer with organisations helping refugees.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has announced the formation of a new “international legion” to help defend his country and appealed to foreign volunteers to come forward, promising them arms to fight against the Russian troops.
His call for an international legion carried echoes of the International Brigades that fought against the fascists – backed by Nazi Germany – in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.
Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba appeared to encourage the comparison, saying that just as Hitler had finally been defeated, “we will defeat Putin, too”.
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There have been questions about the legality of Britons going abroad to fight in previous foreign conflicts.
In 2014, the Crown Prosecution Service warned that UK nationals who went to fight in the Syrian civil war could be committing an offence, even if they joined the rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad.