As the fighting in Ukraine rages on, the country has begun an amnesty and compensation program for Russian soldiers who want to surrender in an effort to capitalize on the low morale reportedly being experienced by Russian troops due to low supplies of food and fuel. The package includes a monetary incentive of 5 million rubles or about $45,000 and a legal pardon in exchange for their voluntary surrender. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov made the announcement on March 1 via Facebook and Twitter.
Reznikov, according to his March 1 statement, said that Russian casualties have amounted to 5,300, with hundreds more taken into custody as POWs. He alleges that many of the Russian troops are young and have been deceived or intimidated to attack Ukraine.
“We offer Russian soldiers a choice: To die in an unjust war, or a complete amnesty and 5 million rubles of compensation if they give up their guns and voluntarily turn themselves in,” he said in a translated version of his Facebook post.
“You were thrown to our land to murder and be murdered. Those of you who doesn’t want to become a murderer or be murdered can be saved,” said Reznikov, addressing Russian troops.
“Do not follow the criminal orders of those who have lied to you for years about Ukraine and Ukrainian people. We guarantee you a full amnesty and monetary compensation if you lay down your weapon voluntarily,” he reassured their enemies.
The initiative apparently first sprouted from an Instagram post of Ukrainian TV personality Masha Efrosinina, which the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense later supported. Funds to shoulder the amnesty program were raised by leaders in the international IT industry.
Indicative estimates of Russia's losses as of March 4, according to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/d5NbS3A6aP
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) March 4, 2022
As of March 4, The Kyiv Independent, together with the Armed Forces of Ukraine, reported that over 9,166 Russian troops had been killed, 33 planes and 37 helicopters had been downed, and 251 tanks had been destroyed. However, Russia has contested these losses, stating that they had only lost 498 troops, with 1,597 wounded. Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov disagreed with the number of casualties the West and Ukraine posted and labeled them as disinformation.
In the same post by Reznikov, he pitied the lost and captured members of the Russian forces, saying that Moscow had deceived them into fighting for an unjust cause.
“The Kremlin turns them into criminals, makes them murderers. Some of them were deceived, some were zombied by propaganda or intimidated. In general, it is clear that the motivation of most invaders is low,” wrote the defense minister.
Those wanting to surrender were instructed to come out with their weapons with a white flag and to say the codeword “million.” He further stated that Ukraine is a civilized country, and all soldiers previously taken as prisoners are in safety and being helped. “You have a chance to start [a] new life. Make your decision,” he persuaded. “Stay alive. Hug your loved ones.”
However, he also did not mince his words when he addressed those that refused to surrender. “Anyone who refuses to be an occupationist will bring peace. For those who choose the path of the occupationist – there will be no mercy! Long live Ukraine!”
The Ukrainian International Legion
Besides their amnesty program, the Ukrainian government has also sought the help of international volunteers to bolster their war efforts. In an announcement on the Ukrainian presidency’s website, Zelensky called for the “friends of peace and democracy” to fly to Ukraine and join the fight. The call came with the temporary lift of Ukrainian visas for foreigners that will join the International Legion of Territorial Defense to fight against Russia. If this is something you’d like to read more about or even pursue, read up all about it here.
“This is the beginning of a war against Europe, against European structures, against democracy, against basic human rights, against a global order of law, rules, and peaceful coexistence,” the statement wrote.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba echoed the President’s sentiments on Twitter, saying that those interested in joining can cooperate with the Ukrainian diplomatic missions in their respective countries. “Together, we defeated Hitler, and we will defeat Putin, too,” said Kuleba.
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. Together we defeated Hitler, and we will defeat Putin, too.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) February 27, 2022
Foreign military volunteers have been operating in Ukraine since separatists seized areas of Donbas in 2014, areas which Russia had recognized as independent. However, the recent call to arms is of a different scale than that of 2014. Ukrainian embassies are openly recruiting fighters, and Western governments have offered to support interested individuals in some form.
On February 28th, President Zelensky announced massive pay increases for Ukrainian soldiers who are being promised $3,400 per month, presumable this would be extended to the International Legion members as well.
Even with the extraordinary risk, thousands have flocked to Ukraine to take up arms. According to Zelensky on a video posted to his Telegram channel, the International Legion has attracted an estimated 16,000 volunteers to “join the defense of Ukraine, Europe, and the world.”
“We have nothing to lose but our own freedom,” said Zelensky, who noted that the country has been receiving military supplies from its allies every day.
The sources of these 16,000 volunteers remained uncertain and were not further discussed in Zelensky’s video. Currently, most foreign combatants in Ukraine come from the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and various parts of Europe.
Recent coverage on the topic also suggests that Japan also had volunteers coming to Ukraine. According to a report by Reuters, a group of 70 Japanese men, which included two French Foreign Legion Veterans and 50 ex-members of the Japanese Self Defense Force, signed up to be volunteers on March 2. A French Facebook group known as “The Group of French Volunteers in Ukraine” has amassed 8,000 members, and it only seems to be growing.
Sources also report dozens of Americans and Canadians answering the call to fight against the Russian invasion. Some cite the “fierce resistance” of the Ukrainians as their inspiration to join, while others feel that their democratic lives will soon be under threat if they leave Europe to stand alone.
Legislation on the validity of joining the Foreign Legion varies across different countries. For example, Latvia voted to allow its citizens to go to Ukraine to fight, while Canada and Denmark warned their citizens of the risks but said that it is their people’s individual choice to fight in Ukraine.
In an earlier article published by SOFREP, Editor-in-chief Sean Spoonts explained that US law states that foreign countries cannot engage in military recruitment within the US, with the current laws governing these situations found in Section 958-960 of Title 18 of the United States Code. If you do want to learn more about the International Legion and how to join it, we suggest you read up on it here.
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