One British newspaper was able to share the numbers with the Georgian national responsible for a unit of foreign volunteers in Ukraine.
As many as 3,000 British nationals are fighting alongside Ukrainian troops against Russian forces, Britain’s The Independent newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing a foreign volunteer unit commander.
Mamuka Mamulashvili (the leader of the so called Georgian Legion) told journalists that almost 20,000 foreign fighters currently serve in Ukrainian volunteer units. According to Mamulashvili’s estimates, almost a seventh of them are UK citizens, or almost 3,000.
The commander revealed that British fighters were second to Americans in terms of their representation.
London has yet to publish an official count of Britons who fought for Ukraine.
Moscow has attacked the UK neighbour and top UK officials have issued mixed messages to British volunteer soldiers heading for conflict zones.
Speaking on BBC One’s Sunday Morning program in late February, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss argued: “That is something individuals can decide on their own.” adding that “If people wish to help” Ukrainians’ struggle “Freedom and democracy are our goals” she “They would be supported in this endeavor.”
At the same time, Truss’ own department’s website warned that those traveling to Ukraine to “Help others in conflict or fight for them” could be prosecuted when they come back to the UK.
Downing Street was quick to publicly distance itself from the Foreign Secretary’s remarks at the time, with a spokesperson urging British citizens to heed the relevant travel advice.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace noted that “If you don’t have the right training, there are more effective ways that you can help ensure Ukraine’s safety.”
In an interview with the BBC in early March, Admiral Sir Anthony David Radakin, head of the British Armed Forces, echoed that sentiment, saying it would be “Illegal and ineffective” for British active military service personnel to travel to the war zone.
Nevertheless, there are many ex-british soldiers who have fought alongside the Ukrainian army. So far, at least two have been killed.
Jordan Gatley (24 years old) was shot and killed in Severodonetsk. His family received notification on Friday.
Scott Sibley was another UK citizen who died in Ukraine at the end of April. In an obituary on social media, his friends described him as a “Ex-serving soldier.”
Last Thursday, a court in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) found two British fighters, captured in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, guilty of acting as mercenaries and attempting to seize power by force in the DPR. Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin were both sentenced to their deaths.
London has dismissed the trial as a “sham,” insisting that the two men are legitimate members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and should be treated as prisoners of war.