TOP STORIES Foreign fighters in Ukraine face danger if captured

Foreign fighters in Ukraine face danger if captured


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Over the past few weeks, several thousand foreign volunteers who came to the war against Russia have gone missing or been taken prisoner.

Last week, two Britons and a Moroccan captured while fighting on the side of the Ukrainian armed forces were sentenced to death in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine on charges of terrorism.

This week, two Americans who were fighting a group of foreign soldiers went missing near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, about 25 miles from the Russian border. Their families fear they have been captured, having disappeared after the platoon came under fire.

Missing and captured militants brought attention to the thousands of largely unsettled volunteers in Ukraine, only a few of whom were accepted into the International Legion of the Ukrainian Army.

The platoon to which the missing Americans belonged was one of dozens of loosely organized volunteer corps that included foreign veterans, including many Americans. Volunteers have proven to be both a valuable asset and a sometimes recalcitrant problem for Ukraine, and also pose a potentially difficult problem for their governments if caught or captured.

On Friday, President Biden said he had been briefed on two Americans missing in Ukraine and that the administration had no knowledge of their current whereabouts.

“I want to reiterate: Americans should not go to Ukraine now,” he said.

The International Legion, formed after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on foreigners to help in the fight in late February, is considered the most selective of the foreign groups.

Damien Magru, a French-Norwegian lawyer with the International Legion of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said in an April interview that he thought the war “resonated” with many American veterans.

“There are also many American veterans who believe they can make a difference because the US has been involved in many more conflicts in the past 20 years than European countries,” he said.

Mr. Magru, a corporal in the Legion, said that accepted volunteers must now have combat experience, no record of dishonorable behavior, and not be a member of extremist groups. According to him, other groups are not so selective.

Mr Magru said he was urging volunteers rejected by the legion to take a military-provided bus to the Polish border. But, he added, “they are in the country legally and we can’t force them to do anything.”

Russia claims that some of the foreign fighters it has captured are mercenaries and are not entitled to POW protection under international law. A local court in the Russian-occupied Donetsk region found that two British and one Moroccan militants who immigrated to Ukraine were guilty of “preparing to carry out terrorist activities” and that they carried out their activities “for remuneration.” “.

It remains unclear what tasks were carried out by the group whose American members went missing, or who in the Ukrainian military or government supervised and gave them orders.

Missing are Alex Dryuke, 39, a former US Army master sergeant who served in Iraq, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, a former Marine, according to family members. They disappeared when their platoon came under “heavy fire” in the village on June 9, causing all but the two of them to retreat, according to a statement sent by Mr. Druke’s family. The statement said that reconnaissance on foot and with the help of a drone did not find any signs of the presence of two soldiers.

Geneva Conventions, that govern the law of war and which Russia signed, specify that captured volunteer fighters can also be considered prisoners of war. The basic definition of a mercenary under international law is a person who fights primarily for financial gain, who is paid significantly more than local military forces.

Those who join the International Legion are paid the same as their Ukrainian military counterparts. They receive a base salary of approximately $630 per month, with bonuses that can reach several thousand dollars per month.

Some warring groups are paid lump sums to cover their expenses, while others are not paid.

Lawrence Hill-Cawthorne, An adjunct professor of law at the University of Bristol said that even volunteer fighters who are not part of the Ukrainian armed forces would be entitled to POW protection if they openly carry weapons during the fighting.

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