WASHINGTON - Some 20,000 international volunteers have traveled to Ukraine to join in the fight against invading Russian forces, a top Ukrainian official said Sunday.

“This number is around 20,000 now. They come from many European countries mostly,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told US broadcaster CNN.

“Many people in the world hated Russia and what it was doing in recent years, but no one dared to openly oppose and fight them,” he said.

“So when people saw that Ukrainians are fighting, that Ukrainians are not giving up, many felt motivated to join the fight” and bring Russia to account for its invasion.

But while Ukraine’s top diplomat said he understood the desire of foreigners to contribute on the ground, it was most important to receive “sustainable, political, economic and military support” from around the world.

“And we need US leadership in this exercise, with special focus on air defense,” Kuleba said. Late last month, at the start of the invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky openly invited foreigners to his country to form part of an “International Legion” that would fight side by side with Ukrainians against the Russians.

Volunteers were invited to apply at Ukrainian embassies in their respective countries.

Denmark has given the green light for its nationals to take up arms in Ukraine.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss gave similar permission to UK nationals, but she was contradicted Sunday by the country’s head of the armed forces Admiral Tony Radakin, who said it was “unlawful and unhelpful” for Britons to fight against Russia in Ukraine.

‘Unlawful’ for Britons to fight in Ukraine: UK military head

The head of the UK armed forces Admiral Tony Radakin said on Sunday that it was “unlawful and unhelpful” for Britons to go and fight against Russia in Ukraine.

His comments contradict British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who said she supported anyone who wanted to volunteer and follow an appeal for foreign fighters to come to Ukraine from President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“We’ve been very clear that it’s unlawful as well as unhelpful for UK military and for the UK population, to start going towards Ukraine,” Chief of the Defence Staff Radakin told BBC television.

“Support from the UK, support in whatever way you can. But this isn’t really something that you want to rush to, in terms of the sound of gunfire.”




Truss said last week that she would “absolutely” support Britons wanting to go to Ukraine to fight, and an unknown number have already gone.

“I think she was reflecting... that we can all understand that sentiment, and that sentiment needs to be channelled into support for Ukraine, but we’re saying, as professional military people, that actually that is not necessarily the sensible thing to be doing,” Radakin said.

Zelensky has urged foreigners to head to Ukrainian embassies worldwide to sign up for an “international brigade” of volunteers to help fight invading Russian forces.

He previously called on foreigners with combat experience to come to help defend his country, which has come under a withering Russian military assault from three sides since February 24.

The British Foreign Office advises against all travel to Ukraine and for all Britons to leave if it is safe to do so.