International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine

foreign legion of the Ukrainian military organized by Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022

Encyclopedia from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine
Інтернаціональний легіон територіальної оборони України
InterLegion fin.svg
Emblem of the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine
Founded27 February 2022; 12 days ago (2022-02-27)
Allegiance Ukraine
Branch Ukrainian Ground Forces
TypeForeign legion
RoleLight infantry
SizeMore than 20,000[1][2]
Engagements2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine

The International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine (Ukrainian: Інтернаціональний легіон територіальної оборони України, romanizedInternatsionalnyi lehion terytorialnoi oborony Ukrainy) or the Ukrainian Foreign Legion is a volunteer foreign legion military unit created by the Government of Ukraine on the request of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to fight in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.[3] It is one of several Ukrainian volunteer battalions formed since 2014.[4] According to Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, more than 20,000 volunteers from 52 countries have volunteered to fight for Ukraine. He, however, did not mention the name of the home countries of the volunteers, saying that some of the countries forbid their citizens from fighting for other countries.[1]


Under the leadership of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the unit was created to join the defence of Ukraine against the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, and its formation was announced in a statement by the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on 27 February 2022, at around 11:00 local time.[5] Kuleba also promoted it on Twitter, inviting individuals to apply and stating that "together we defeated Hitler, and we will defeat Putin too."[6]

On 7 March, the Ukrainian Armed Forces released the first image of International Legion soldiers, depicting in trenches on the outskirts of Kyiv and announced a new group was being relocated to the frontlines each day.[7]

First Deputy Interior Minister of Ukraine, Yevhen Yenin, announced in March 2022 that volunteers to the International Legion would be eligible for Ukrainian citizenship, if desired.[8]

Training and selection

Those who want to join the unit are able to do so by contacting the Defense Attaché of the Ukrainian Embassy in their respective country.[9] A website was created to enlist foreigners as well.[10] The effort to raise an International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine bears resemblances to Kyiv's efforts during and since the 2014 hostilities in Donbas and Russo-Ukrainian War to recruit foreign volunteer battalions.[11] According to Zelenskyy, 16,000 foreign volunteers had attempted to join the Legion as of 3 March 2022.[12]

The criteria listed for joining included having prior military or medical experience, and submitting documents as proof of military service to the Ministry of Defense official at the Ukrainian embassy, and not bringing their own weapons to Ukraine.[13] However, most of the volunteers who reached Lviv and applied were accepted.[14]

International response


The Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison told reporters "our advice to all Australians is, do not travel to Ukraine... I would counsel against making assumptions about the legality of such activity at this point, given the uncertainties that are associated with the arrangements and the force that the President of Ukraine Zelenskyy is putting in place."[15]


As of 6 March, about 500 Brazilians are mobilizing on WhatsApp, Telegram and social networks groups to enlist. The Embassy of Ukraine in Brazil said that "it is not enlisting for the Ukrainian Foreign Legion" or "campaigning to join this military formation". The costs are up to US$1,5 thousand per person, including air tickets and documentation.[16] There are over 400,000 people of Ukrainian descent living in Brazil.[17]


Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has urged Cambodians not to travel to Ukraine and fight with Ukrainians in the legion.[18]


The 1937 Foreign Enlistment Act, enacted during the Spanish Civil War, prohibits Canadians from joining a foreign volunteer force against Canada's allies.[19] In March 2022, Minister of National Defence Anita Anand noted that "the legalities of the situation are indeterminate at this time."[20] The government had announced that it is up to individual Canadians to decide whether they want to join and that they "respect personal choices",[21][20] though the government "is not facilitating" Canadians who are looking to join the International Legion.[22] One of the volunteer groups, the Canadian-Ukrainian Brigade, claimed that it has recruited at least 600 people.[20] Canada is home to the second-largest population of the Ukrainian diaspora, after Russia. Famous former Canadian sniper nicknamed "Wali" also arrived in Ukraine to join the fight against Russia. [23] Due to a high number of Canadian volunteers, a separate Canadian battalion within the Legion was established to avoid language barriers and logistics issues.[24]


On 27 February, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković commented on news of the possible departure of Croatian volunteers to Ukraine, saying "Every departure to Ukraine is an act of individuals and they take personal responsibility".[25] Croatian military envoy to Moscow Željko Akrap was summoned to the Russian Defense Ministry on February 2 and 3 for allegations that 200 Croatian volunteers had joined the Ukrainian army. During the second call, the Russian side tried to hand over a protest note to Akrap but he refused to take it.[26]

Croatian law penalizes organizing the departure or going to war in another country if it violates the constitutional order of that country, undermines the territorial integrity of the country and if you go as a mercenary.[27]

On 28 February, it was reported that and Balkan Insight both Croatian fighters already in Ukraine were heading toward the frontlines to "repay the debt" for past Ukrainian support to Croatia and because of a feeling that the war would not "end in Ukraine", while a new batch of Croatian recruits had reached the Hungarian-Ukrainian border, intending to join them.[28][29]

Czech Republic

Citizens of the Czech Republic are allowed to join other countries' armed forces as foreign volunteers if they get an approval by the President of the Czech Republic. On 28 February, the president Miloš Zeman stated he would be in favor of allowing potential volunteers to join the newly formed Ukrainian legion.[30] The Ministry of Defence has already reported its first applicants.[31] On March 3, after a meeting, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and President Milos Zeman announced immunity for all Czech volunteers, who will join Ukrainian defense forces without official approval.[32]


Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on 27 February 2022, that at first glance, she did not believe it would be illegal for Danes to participate in the conflict.[33]


A significant response has been reported in France to Zelenskyy's call for foreign fighters, with online interest estimated in the thousands, and some having already gone to Ukraine as of March 3.[34][35]


On 2 March, Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser and Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann declared the Federal Government would not prevent its own citizens from going to Ukraine to fight in the war. These persons also would not face criminal prosecution. This applies to potential missions for both Ukrainians and Russians.[36] The German Federal Police specified they would not let right-wing extremists travel to Ukraine.[37]


On 28 February, 50 Georgian volunteers arrived in Ukraine to help "A group of Georgian volunteers arrived in Ukraine to help the wounded in Ukraine and, if necessary, to take part in hostilities. About 50 people managed to enter Ukraine by crossing the Sarpi customs point. They left for Ukraine on February 28."- Georgian Radio Free reported.[38]

Due to Georgia already having had military conflicts with Russia in the 1992 Abkhazian War and 2008 War, many Georgians sympathized with Ukrainians and therefore went to help. Georgians and Ukrainians have a history of sending volunteers to each other's countries during times of conflict or helping each other in political and humanitarian matters during the aforementioned wars. Georgians have supported Ukraine since the start of the Russo-Ukrainian conflicts. Ukraine has already established a battalion of Georgian fighters called the Georgian Legion since the War in Donbass, but new volunteers would be stationed in the newly formed International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine.

On 1 March, a new batch of volunteers was to fly to Ukraine but the Georgian government canceled their flight. In response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced the Georgian government's "immoral position" and has recalled Ukraine's ambassador to Georgia.[39]

Former Georgian Defense Minister, Irakli Okruashvili with some volunteers also traveled to Ukraine and joined the call to arms to defend Ukraine against Russia. His squad then joined the International Legion.[40]


As 8 March 2022, over 500 Indians from across the country, including some veterans and one student.[41], have submitted applications volunteering to join the International Legion created to fight Russian forces in Ukraine. One Indian student in Kharkiv is known to have joined the territorial defence squad[42] The Ukrainian Embassy in India had posted a tweet asking Indians to volunteer for the legion, it was later rescinded after New Delhi contacted the embassy.[43]

Indian domestic law clearly states such an act is punishable under Chapter VI, Section 121-130 of the Indian Penal Code. The law is invoked when the foreign Army, in which Indian nationals joining, is doing inimical things or is an adversary of India or other friendly countries.[44]


Ukrainian initiatives to recruit Israelis began on 26 February, primarily targeting the Ukrainian-Jewish community in Israel, in tandem with Israeli protests against the Russian invasion of Ukraine[45] swelling to the thousands, consisting of primarily Israelis with roots from Ukraine and other ex-Soviet countries, but also a smaller contingent of Israelis with no roots in the former USSR at all.[46] The Ukrainian Embassy focused on recruiting Ukrainian-Israelis through Facebook.[45] By early March, it was reported that Israelis had been recruited and were heading to Ukraine; most were veterans of the Israeli Defense Forces, and were primarily of Ukrainian, Russian, or other former USSR roots, but not exclusively so, with recruits of Druze Israeli and American-Israeli backgrounds also noted.[47]


The tensions in the Donbas region starting from 2014 have mobilized about 17,000 foreign fighters from 50 nations. Of those the vast majority were Russians (ca. 15 000) or from other eastern European countries. Of the foreign fighters coming from the West Italians have constituted the second numerous group after Germans (about 60 Italians and about 100 Germans moved to Donbas from 2014 to 2022). It is estimated that these foreign fighters were more or less equally split between the pro-Russian and pro-Ukraine forces.[48]

The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and Volodymyr Zelenskyy's open call for a legion of foreign fighters ignited interest among Italians to flying to Ukraine and participating in the conflict, to the point that Italian police started monitoring social media in order to detect possible terrorism threats.[49]

It is unclear at the moment how many Italians have answered the call. In Italy the criminal code punishes "unauthorized enlistment in the service of a foreign state".[49]


On 1 March, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said, "I am aware that the Embassy of Ukraine in Japan is calling for such (volunteer soldiers), but I would like you to refrain from traveling to Ukraine, regardless of your purpose."[50]

As of 2 March 2022, 70 Japanese men have applied to be volunteers of the volunteer foreign legion. 50 of these men are former members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces and two of these men are former members of the French Foreign Legion.[51] It was reported that an unnamed company in Tokyo assisted the Embassy in recruiting potential candidates.[52]


The Saeima of Latvia unanimously approved immunity from prosecution for Latvian volunteers who wish to join combat on the side of the Ukrainian military.[53][54]

On 8 March 2022, member of the Saeima Juris Jurass of the New Conservative Party volunteered to fight with fellow Latvians in Ukraine.[55]


Several dozen Lithuanians have joined the Legion.[56]


On 28 February the Minister of Defence, Kajsa Ollongren, announced that joining the international foreign legion is legal. In support of her statement, she said; "it's only illegal to join a foreign army if that army is at war with the Netherlands." It is suggested that only citizens with a military background should be eligible to join the fighting.

As of 7 March 2022, it is estimated around 200 Dutchmen have volunteered to join the legion at the Ukrainian embassy in The Hague. 40 of them are already on their way to Ukraine.[57][58][59]


Polish citizens may join the army of foreign countries only after approval of a written application by the Polish Ministry of National Defense. There are several formal conditions that must be met in order to issue a permit. Among others, one cannot currently be in active military service and joining the army of a foreign country cannot violate the interests of the Republic of Poland.[60] A group of at least 30 people who were willing to join the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine gathered.[61]


On 3 March, Senegal's foreign ministry condemned a social media post by the country's Ukrainian embassy calling for volunteers as illegal under Senegalese law. The Ukrainian ambassador to Senegal was summoned and asked to take down the post.[52]


Vivian Balakrishnan, Singaporean Minister of Foreign Affairs, said during a Parliament session on 22 February that Singaporeans must only fight for Singaporean national security interests and not fight in other places even for noble reasons.[62]

The Singaporean Ministry of Home Affairs has stated any Singaporean who has gone to Ukraine are liable for any criminal offences committed outside Singapore, especially when fighting Russian-backed forces, with fines including imprisonment from 15 years to life.[63]

South Korea

The South Korean government is taking an ambiguous stance with both the Ministry of Law and the Ministry of National Defense stating “특별히 언급할 건 없다” "We have nothing in particular to comment" regarding whether South Korean citizens can volunteer to join combat in Ukraine.[64]

There have been warnings about personal repercussions since Ukraine is currently on the no travel list and trespassing without permission onto any Level 4 Travel Prohibition Zone is a violation of the Passport Act which carries a penalty of up to one year imprisonment or a fine of up to ₩10 million (approx. $8,700).[64] The government also reminded people that duty to defend South Korea comes first and any South Korean men under 25 years of age who enlist in the Ukrainian military without first completing national service can be charged for violating Article 70 of the Military Service Act for up to three years, unless they obtain permission from the commissioner of the Military Manpower Administration.[64] Some legal experts also warned that it might set a dangerous precedent of mercenaries joining terrorist groups abroad.[64]

However, other prominent legal experts have provided very different advice to the government, stating that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are not a designated terrorist organization therefore it does not set any unwanted precedents, exemptions can apply when it is for "urgent humanitarian assistance" even to conflict zones, and that private citizens joining the Ukrainian Foreign Legion could be allowed so long as it is reported as an "Overseas Job Experience".[64] The government states it would "prefer" if volunteers do not join but also strongly hinted it will not actively prohibit South Korean citizens trying to join combat in Ukraine ("적극적으로 금지하고 나서는 것도 아니다.").[64]

On 7 March 2022, the Ukrainian Embassy in Seoul reported it had received some 100 applications from South Korean volunteers.[65] Various news sources claim a well-known South Korean Navy SEAL team is already in Ukraine fighting.[66][67] The Ukrainian Embassy declined to verify the number of South Korean volunteer soldiers who have departed for Ukraine, citing "security reasons".[65]


Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded in a press conference for a question regarding the official stance towards any Taiwanese national whom want to join the International Legion in the war of Ukraine, stated "the government's consistent position is to call on all Taiwanese nationals to avoid traveling to Ukraine, due to the deteriorating situation in there."[68] "The government fully understands the sentiment of its nationals who want to stand for righteousness and give their support to Ukraine. However, on the standpoint of protecting the safety of its people and the risk of war, the government advises its nationals to avoid going there." and reiterated "in order to urge Russia to stop its military aggression against Ukraine, Taiwan will participate in the economic sanctions imposed on Russia along with the international community."[68][69]

Due to no formal diplomatic relation between Ukraine and Taiwan, no diplomatic missions were established in either side.[69]

United Kingdom

The Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom Liz Truss said "the people of Ukraine are fighting for freedom and democracy, not just for Ukraine but also for the whole of Europe because that is what President [Vladimir] Putin is challenging. And absolutely, if people want to support that struggle, I would support them in doing that."[70] However, Boris Johnson's office did not endorse Truss's statement[71] and the statement was criticised by several politicians who said volunteers may be in violation of the Foreign Enlistment Act 1870.[72] Ukrainian sources said 6,000 Britons had registered an interest in joining;[73] The Times reported over 150 former paratroopers who served in the War in Afghanistan had joined and were travelling to the front line.[74] UK military officials instructed regular and reserve personnel not to travel to Ukraine.[75]

United States

The United States Department of State issued a travel advisory formally advised all Americans not to travel to Ukraine.[76] According to the Ukrainian embassy in Washington, DC, 3,000 US citizens have volunteered to fight for Ukraine.[77] The Neutrality Act of 1794, a federal law whose provisions remains in effect as of March 2022, prohibits US citizens from taking up arms against any country at peace with the United States. It is unclear whether the United States Congress will pass legislation to waive this restriction with respect to the conflict in Ukraine.


Under Article 425 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code, it states that anyone who fights as a mercenary to fight against another country will be imprisoned from 5 to 15 years.[18]


According to Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, more than 20,000 volunteers from 52 countries have volunteered to fight for Ukraine.[1] He, however, did not mention the name of the home countries of the volunteers, saying that some of the countries forbid their citizens from fighting for other countries. He also did not specify how many of the foreign volunteers have arrived in Ukraine.[1]

Russian reaction

On 3 March 2022, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov warned that if any foreign troops are detained while under Ukrainian command, they will not be treated humanely or be given prisoner of war status.[78] Russia is a signatory to parts of the Third Geneva Convention but not the Mercenary Convention.

On 11 March 2022, Moscow announced that volunteers are being recruited from the Middle East to work alongside Russian troops.[79]

See also



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External links

Original content from Wikipedia, shared with licence Creative Commons By-Sa - International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine