A foreign fighter who identifies himself as Australian has spoken of his decision to travel to “faraway” Ukraine to help “a country in need” as it defends itself against Russia’s invasion.
- The Australian said he had joined other international volunteers in the Ukrainian Foreign Legion
- He said he hopes to inspire other foreign recruits to fight Russia
- The federal government has warned Australians against joining the war
Appearing in a recently published video, the unidentified soldier talked about joining other international volunteers in the newly formed military unit known as the Ukrainian Foreign Legion.
“I think it’s fantastic, I think it’s an opportunity,” the man, whose face is obscured by a mask, says in a distinctly Australian accent.
His comments appeared in a Radio Svoboda television report filed from the frontline city of Sievierodonetsk, where Ukrainian forces claimed to have just reversed a Russian advance and recaptured about 20 per cent of the city.
Radio Svoboda, known elsewhere as Radio Free Europe, is a United States government-funded organisation that broadcasts news to countries in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world where media is either banned or restricted.
In the Ukrainian-language video, the Australian volunteer fighter explained in English how he hoped to inspire other foreign recruits to also join the war effort against Russia.
“I feel like it’s really, really inspirational to have a lot of these guys with previous experience to actually lend their hand and step up and volunteer,” he said.
“I’m from Australia, it’s quite far away, quite hard to get here and even I stepped up — hopefully, I inspire more people to come and do the same thing”.
A second soldier, speaking English with an American accent, said he was “a 22-year-old kid” from Georgia and promised to help push Russians back.
“We’re on the right side of the history,” he added.
The Australian government has repeatedly warned Australians against joining the war against Russia, after Ukraine’s President established the Foreign Legion in February.
On Sunday, Defence Minister Richard Marles said he was unaware of the interview with the Australian soldier, but repeated warnings for others not to travel to the front line.
“Our message is that Australians should not be participating in foreign conflicts,” Mr Marles told reporters in Geelong.
Government sources have told the ABC that as many as 200 Australian citizens and Ukrainian dual nationals are believed to have travelled to Europe to join the war effort, although no official figure has been released.
Ukrainian officials on Saturday announced the death of four foreign military volunteers fighting Russian forces but did not specify when or under what circumstances they died.
The International Legion of Defence of Ukraine, an official volunteer brigade, named the men and published photos of them, saying they were from Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and France.
The death of Australian man Michael O’Neill was first reported last month, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese describing the 47-year-old’s passing as a “tragedy”.