Only 2,200 mercenaries remain in Ukraine of almost 12,000 that had flocked to Kiev’s cause since the conflict escalated, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday.
A total of 11,675 foreign fighters from 84 countries have been recorded entering Ukrainian service since February 2022, Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said during a daily briefing.
Poland accounted for the largest number of foreign combatants – more than 2,600 of them. The US and Canada furnished over 900 each, followed by Georgia (more than 800), the UK and Romania (over 700), Croatia (more than 300), France (over 200) as well as Syrian territories under Turkish control.
However, a total of 4,845 foreign fighters died in battle and another 4,801 fled Ukraine, leaving only 2,209 on active duty in the Ukrainian armed forces as of June 30, Konashenkov noted.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Kiev was intensifying efforts to recruit mercenaries in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, due to facing manpower shortages at home.
“The Kiev regime uses mercenaries mostly as cannon fodder for meat assaults,” Konashenkov said. “The Ukrainian command has no regard for their lives. The only choice they have is to flee Ukraine or die.”
He pointed to the fact that most of the mercenaries arrived early on in the conflict, in March and April of 2022, with the tempo of arrivals “decreasing sharply” after they took the first combat losses. A strike on the base of the ‘International Legion of Ukraine’ in Yavorov in early March 2022 killed up to 180 foreign fighters, with Moscow vowing “no mercy for mercenaries.”
Western veterans who went to Ukraine expecting to use their experiences from Afghanistan or Iraq have testified to media outlets that the current conflict is totally different, describing the incessant artillery as “just hell” and complaining that their life expectancy on the frontline is measured in hours.
“This is my third war I’ve fought in, and this is by far the worst one,” a former US marine told The Daily Beast last week.