ICCT’s Key Publications on Foreign Fighters and Volunteers in Ukraine

Following Russia’s invasion into Ukraine and President Zelenskyy’s establishment of the International Legion for the Territorial Defence of Ukraine, there has been broad speculation on the potential implications that could derive from foreign individuals travelling to take part in the conflict. To provide insight into the situation, ICCT’s Key Publications on Foreign Fighters and Volunteers in Ukraine discuss the myths and realities of foreign fighters, security considerations for European governments, the issues related to foreign volunteers’ legal status, and the significance of applying appropriate terminology to different contexts.

1️⃣ Shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Zelenskyy began calling for (foreign) volunteers to join the conflict. Considering the death sentence imposed on two British and Moroccan fighters pronounced by a pro-Russian court in East Ukraine, and the recent capture of two American fighters in Donetsk, this Perspective by Tanya Mehra and Abigail Thorley addresses the legal status of the foreign individuals joining the conflict in Ukraine, and some of the legal and political consequences of this situation.

2️⃣ While it may remain legal for citizens in many states to volunteer with the International Legion in Ukraine, past research and experience raise some points of consideration related to people travelling abroad to fight wars in other countries. This Perspective by Teun van Dongen, Gijs Weijenberg, Martijn Vugteveen, and Joshua Farrell-Molloy outlines several of these considerations relevant to volunteers in Ukraine, which may have implications for European governments.

3️⃣ What are the myths and realities related to foreign individuals joining the conflict in Ukraine? This Live Briefing, led by Eviane Leidig, featured a roundtable discussion with leading experts Kacper Rekawek and Michael Colborne on the ongoing response of foreign fighters, volunteers, and legions to the invasion of Ukraine, as well as the implications of foreign mobilisation in the short- and long term.

4️⃣ What is the potential for growth of the far-right in Ukraine in the context of the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war? In this Interview, Bellingcat Journalist Michael Colborne discusses his recent book From the Fires of War: Ukraine’s Azov Movement and the Global Far Right and the unlikely scenario of a transnational expansion of the Azov Movement.

5️⃣ What was the role of Dutch fighters in Ukraine following the annexation of Crimea in 2014? This Perspective by Gijs Weijenberg and Jeanine de Roy van Zuijdewijn explores the understudied phenomenon of Dutch individuals travelling to Ukraine to join the conflict, prior to the 2022 Russian invasion in Ukraine.