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Exclusive Interview With International Legion for the Defence of Ukraine — What They’re Doing, & What You Can Do To Help

Exclusive Interview With International Legion for the Defence of Ukraine — What They’re Doing, & What You Can Do To Help

Hill Reporter was able this week to request more information from the International Legion for the Defence of Ukraine, a body that is made up of people from around the world who are willing to put their combat experience to use protecting Ukraine during the invasion by Russia.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky reacts during a press conference following his talks with President of the European Council in Kyiv on April 20, 2022. (Photo by Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP) (Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

We reached out with questions about joining the fight, about what recruits should expect, and who should volunteer, and about what those of us who are interested in helping but don’t have the qualifications to join should do.

A PR coordinator going by the name Mockingjay responded, and provided the following information. Responses are unedited.

Asked about requirements, including language and other expectations, Mockingjay responded.

We recruit volunteers who have live combat experience and basic English is mandatory. Speaking Ukrainian can be an advantage but does not replace the requirement to speak and understand English.

The organization has stated in other interviews that they make an effort to weed out extremists, and people affiliated with right-wing groups. The PR coordinator explained this further:

We want people whose sole reason to join the Legion is to help defend Ukraine. We try to keep our ranks free of personal agendas and harsh or polarising political affiliations. Being strongly and publicly аssociated with extremist or terrorist groups would disqualify volunteers. We perform background checks when volunteers arrive in Ukraine in order to enforce these requirements and criteria.

Hill Reporter asked about safety concerns for recruits traveling to Ukraine, and what a would-be volunteer should know before heading to the nearest Ukrainian Embassy to sign up. Mockingjay explained how safety is best ensured by a degree of discretion, and that volunteers should not speak to the media, post on social media, or otherwise share information about their travel.

The Ukrainian Embassies handle the first step of the application process. They check documents and do background checks to ensure people do meet our recruitment criteria. We are very clear with our recruits that they cannot talk to the media and they cannot post on social media. This is not done in an attempt to censor them but for their own protection as well as to protect the Legion itself.

Our advice for those who are applying through the embassies or are on their way to Ukraine is to not share details on social media. Nor to talk to journalists. If volunteers or legionnaires are contacted by the media, we ask them to redirect them to us. Also we would like to ask everyone not to share contact details or other information they were given by the embassies or after they joined the legion.

There are reports of people who are determined to join, and try to overstate their qualifications. Hill Reporter asked about the screening process, and how recruits who aren’t prepared for the fight are filtered out.

Thankfully the embassies do the prescreening, which already acts as a barrier or deterrent for people who do not meet our recruitment criteria. The embassies check documents supporting combat experience and references. This means that if someone overstates their qualifications or experience, it comes out during this first step in the application process.

We also have a full screening process upon arrival in Ukraine. Potential recruits meet our recruiters, who conduct an interview, review documents, run background checks, check their actual skills based on tests, and conduct psychological assessment.

Having experience with guns and having good gun-handling skills is not enough in an active combat situation. Our goal here is to recruit people who are ready for combat and can be deployed to the front within days of their arrival.

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We understand people want to help and they want to use their skills on the ground but everyone needs to understand that this recruitment criteria has been set for a reason. We don’t have the resources, means or time to train people or to test their skills and readiness to the point where we can make sure someone without combat experience is ready for combat, will not freeze if they come under attack and won’t abandon their squad.

Being away from home isn’t easy in the best of times, and we know that war is hard on people. We asked the International Legion for the Defence of Ukraine how morale is on the ground, and what holds Legionnaires together as they fight.

We became a family. We live and work together. We are together 24/7. There are of course ups and downs. But ultimately we are all here for the same reason and we support each other and work alongside each other to make sure we are successful as a team and as a unit. We all have difficult moments being here, far from home and family, but we are there for each other and we all fight this war side by side, doing our respective jobs to the best of our abilities and beyond.

Perhaps the most important question for most readers — those who don’t have the combat skills to physically join, or who are prevented from doing so for other reasons — was saved for last. If you’re wondering what you can do from home, this is it.

Ukraine has been holding off what is allegedly the World’s second largest and strongest military power for almost two months now. We understand that not everyone can leave their life behind, even temporarily, to come to Ukraine and help on the ground. We need help and support from the international community but we don’t just need boots on the ground. Ukraine needs heavy weapons, and every person in the free world can help by putting pressure on their politicians to help this happen. The legion itself needs help with raising funds, sharing our message and information and gathering supplies that ensure our troops are well equipped.

With that in mind, here are some resources if you’d like to help. The website for the International Legion of Defence of Ukraine is here, and has information for those who seek to join, including embassy information. You can find contact information for your elected officials (even if you don’t know the names you want to contact) through usa.gov here. The IDLU also has shared on Facebook about how you can donate.

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