Ukraine Recruiting Foreign Soldiers To Fight Russia Triggers Criticism From African Nations

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has openly called for foreign soldiers who support the Ukrainian cause to join in the fight for his country. As a result, some African governments have received reports that their citizens are willing to heed the call – and it is drawing criticism.

On Sunday, Feb. 27, Zelenskyy formed the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine, which was specifically created for foreign fighters to join the Ukrainian defense effort.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba doubled down on the request on social media.

“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 on Feb. 27. “Together we defeated Hitler, and we will defeat Putin, too.”

Africans in different countries said they were willing to answer the call. “If Ukraine decides to pay me a very good amount of money, which I know I cannot earn here, I will definitely go there and fight,” Kimanzi Nashon, a student in Nairobi, Kenya, told German News outlet Deutsche Welle (DW).

“When we go there, and then the war ends before anything happens, I will come back to Kenya and be a millionaire,” Nashon continued.

Nashon wasn’t the only one.

“If an opportunity presented itself for me to fight in Ukraine as a mercenary, I would be on my heels running there,” said Beatrice Kaluk, who’s had trouble finding employment in her native Kenya, she told DW.

“I would rather die on the front line in Ukraine knowing that my family would be compensated even after my death, rather than die in Kenya from depression because of the insane unemployment rate!” Kaluk added.

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The Ukrainian Embassy in Dakar, Senegal posted a message on Facebook calling for volunteers to serve as foreign soldiers. The Senegalese government came out strongly against the message and the post has since been deleted.

Senegal isn’t the only African country whose government decried Ukraine’s attempt to recruit foreign fighters. Nigeria also condemned alleged recruitment efforts among citizens after hearing that Nigerian volunteers were registering with the Ukrainian Embassy to join the war effort.

“As a responsible member of the international community and consistent with our obligations under international law, Nigeria discourages the use of mercenaries anywhere in the world and will not tolerate recruitment, in Nigeria, of Nigerians as mercenaries to fight in Ukraine or anywhere else in the world,” the statement said.

The statement also said the Ukrainian Embassy had refuted allegations of recruiting young Nigerians and of asking them to pay $1,000 for airfare and visas.

The irony is stark, particularly considering the reports of racism against African students trying to flee the violence in Ukraine. Many African students said they were being prevented from boarding trains and other forms of transportation, forced to walk in the brutal cold and, after finally arriving at the border from Ukraine into Poland and other NATO ally countries, prevented from crossing.

Some people weighed in on Twitter about how disrespectful they thought it was to make an appeal to Africans to serve as foreign soldiers in Ukraine’s army.

“Ukraine’s efforts to recruit fighters from African countries isn’t just evidence of desperation, it is unconscionable. Kiev’s willingness to recruit Africans to use as cannon fodder in its war with Russia will backfire. Already, Senegal’s government has condemned the initiative,” policy analyst Ovigwe Eguegu tweeted.

PHOTO: African residents in Ukraine wait at the platform inside Lviv railway station, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. Thousands of people massed at Lviv’s main train station on Sunday, attempting to board trains that would take them out of Ukraine and into the safety of Europe as the Russian invasion of that country continued. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

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