KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday urged foreigners to head to Ukrainian embassies worldwide to sign up for an “international brigade” of volunteers to help fight invading Russian forces.
“All foreigners wishing to join the resistance against the Russian occupiers and protect global security are invited by the Ukrainian leadership to come to our state and join the ranks of the territorial defense forces,” Zelensky said in a statement on the presidential website.
“A separate unit is being formed from foreigners — the International Brigade of the territorial defense of Ukraine. This will be a key testimony of your support for our country.”
Zelensky insisted that Ukrainians were courageous enough to face Russia alone, but said: “This is not just a Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is the beginning of a war against Europe.”
He said anyone interested in joining should get in contact with the military attaché at their nearest Ukrainian embassy.
“According to Regulation on Military Service in the Armed Forces of Ukraine by citizens of their countries and stateless persons approved by Decree of the President of Ukraine #248 of June 10, 2016, foreigners have the right to join the Armed Forces of Ukraine for military service under Contract of a voluntary basis to be included in the Territorial Defence Forces of the Armed Forced of Ukraine,” the statement said.
“There is no greater contribution which you can make for the sake of peace,” the statement stressed.
It came after Zelensky earlier called on foreigners with combat experience to come to help defend his country.
The Ukrainian Embassy in Israel on Saturday began actively recruiting people in Israel to fight against the Russian military, especially those with combat experience.
Outgunned Ukrainian forces are battling to halt a multi-pronged attack from Russia’s military as it seeks to push deeper into its pro-Western neighbor.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also called for foreign fighters to sign up.
“Foreigners willing to defend Ukraine and world order as part of the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine, I invite you to contact foreign diplomatic missions of Ukraine in your respective countries,” Kuleba tweeted. “Together we defeated Hitler, and we will defeat Putin, too.”
At the end of January, the Kyiv Independent newspaper reported that anyone who is physically and mentally fit, with no criminal record and between the age of 18 and 40 can apply to join the armed forces. The age limit can, under certain circumstances, be extended to 60.
At the time, it reported contracts can be signed for three years. It noted that foreign nationals from UK, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Sweden and other countries had already fought alongside Ukrainian forces in the pro-Russian Donbas separatist region.
Serving with the military also enables foreign nationals to apply for Ukrainian citizenship, according to the report.
Britain’s Foreign Minister Liz Truss signaled she doesn’t oppose UK nationals fighting on behalf of Ukraine, telling the BBC that it up to individuals to “make their own decision” and describing the fight as a battle for “democracy.”
“The people of Ukraine are fighting for freedom and democracy… that’s what President Putin is challenging,” she said according to the BBC.
A Ukrainian official told the BBC that over 210 civilians have been killed in the Russian invasion.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says more than 368,000 people have fled to neighboring countries, while over 160,000 are estimated to be displaced within Ukraine.
Ukraine’s defense ministry claimed Sunday that around 4,300 Russian soldiers have been killed since President Vladimir Putin launched the offensive on Thursday.
There has been no independent verification of that figure and Russia has released no details of military losses.
But Western security officials say Ukraine’s forces have likely surprised Moscow with their level of resistance and Russia is not making the rapid progress it hoped for.
Facing a much better equipped Russian military force, Ukraine’s president has called on citizens to form a people’s army with weapons being made available by security authorities and by preparing Molotov cocktails to attack Russian troops.
The Russian advance has reached several major cities including the capital Kyiv. Street fighting has been reported amid Russian bombardments that the Ukrainians claim had also targeted civilian areas.