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Unspecified number of Americans with military backgrounds battling Russian forces beside Ukrainians: Report

Hector, a former US Marine, goes to board a flight to Warsaw, Poland, on March 4, 2022, to battle against Russia beside Ukrainian troops. (Photo by the New York Times)

An unspecified number of Americans with military backgrounds are battling Russia beside Ukrainian troops, a new report says, days after the first US citizen killed while fighting in Ukraine turned the spotlight on the presence of ex-military Americans in the European country.

In a report on Sunday, Associated Press recounted the story of a number of American nationals, with military or law enforcement backgrounds, that headed overseas to join Ukrainian government forces in their battle against Russian forces.

The report began with army veteran Harrison Jozefowicz who quit his job as a Chicago police officer arrived in Ukraine to join other American volunteers seeking what they called coming to help Ukrainians in their fight, which began when Russia commenced an ongoing military operation in Ukraine on February 24.

Jozefowicz, as the chief of a group called Task Force Yankee, has so far placed over 190 volunteers in combat slots and other roles.

Last week, US media and major ones around the globe turned their spotlight on 22-year-old American Willy Joseph Cancel who was killed while fighting in Ukraine.

Cancel was working for a military contracting company that sent him to Ukraine and is believed to be the first US national to be killed during the current war.

“An undetermined number of other Americans - many with military backgrounds - are thought to be in the country battling Russian forces beside both Ukrainians and volunteers from other countries even though US forces aren't directly involved in fighting aside from sending military materiel, humanitarian aid and money,” the report said.

According to the report, Ukraine’s embassy in Washington has the task of fielding inquiries from thousands of Americans who want to join government forces in the European country.

It added that Kiev is using the internet to recruit volunteers for a foreign force through a special military unit dubbed as the International Legion of Defense of Ukraine, which was created by the Ukrainian government on February 27, at the request of President Volodymyr Zelensky to fight against the Russians.

According to Kiev's Brig. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, commander of the division running the legion, as of March 7 more than 20,000 volunteers and veterans from 52 countries had signed up to fight.

On Sunday, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed that there were “many” foreign officers and mercenaries fighting for Ukraine on the western side of the ex-Soviet republic.

Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, according to Moscow, is aimed at “demilitarization” of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine. In 2014, the two regions declared themselves new republics, refusing to recognize Ukraine’s Western-backed government.

Announcing the operation on February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the mission was aimed at “defending people who for eight years are suffering persecution and genocide by the Kiev regime.”

Elsewhere in his remarks on Sunday, Lavrov reiterated that Zelensky, who has repeatedly asked for a meeting with Putin to end the war, constantly changes his position.

The Ukrainians, Lavrov said, have sabotaged negotiations between the two sides that have been addressing the issue of the conflict.

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