The Georgian national of a foreign volunteer unit in Ukraine shared the figures with a British newspaper
As many as 3,000 British nationals are fighting against Russian forces alongside Ukrainian troops, Britain’s newspaper The Independent reported Tuesday, citing a foreign volunteer unit commander.
Mamuka Mamulashvili, who heads the so-called Georgian Legion, told reporters that a total of nearly 20,000 foreign fighters are currently serving in volunteer units in Ukraine. Mamulashvili estimates that nearly a seventh of them are British citizens, or nearly 3,000.
The commander further revealed that British were the second most represented group among overseas fighters, followed by Americans.
London has not published an official count of Britons who went to fight for Ukraine.
Since Moscow attacked its neighbor, top British officials have sent mixed messages to British volunteers en route to the conflict zone.
During a speech on BBC One’s Sunday Morning program in late February, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss argued: “that’s something people can make their own decisions about,” adding that “if people want to support“The struggle of the Ukrainians”for freedom and democracy,” she “would support them.†
At the same time, Truss’ own department website warned that those traveling to Ukraine should “fighting, or helping others involved in the conflict” could be prosecuted if they return to the UK.
Downing Street was quick to publicly distance itself from the Foreign Secretary’s comments at the time, with a spokesman urging British citizens to heed the relevant travel advice.
Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace noted that “unless you are properly trained, there are better ways to contribute to Ukraine’s security.†
In an interview with the BBC in early March, Admiral Sir Anthony David Radakin, head of the British Armed Forces echoed that sentiment and said it would be “illegal and uselessfor British active servicemen to travel to the war zone.
A number of former British soldiers have nevertheless traveled to fight alongside the Ukrainian army. So far, at least two of them have been killed.
Jordan Gatley, 24, was fatally shot in the city of Severodonetsk, his family was informed Friday.
In late April, it was confirmed that another British subject, Scott Sibley, was dead in Ukraine. In a social media obituary, his friends described him as a “former serving soldier.†
Last Thursday, a court in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) found two British fighters captured in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol guilty of acting as mercenaries and attempting to take power by force in the DPR. Both Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner were sentenced to death.
London dismissed the trial as a “appearance,insist that the two men are legitimate members of the Ukrainian armed forces and should be treated as prisoners of war.