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international legion

16,000 foreigners have volunteered to fight for Ukraine during Russian invasion, Zelensky says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday that 16,000 foreigners have volunteered to fight for Ukraine during the ongoing Russian offense, The Washington Post reports.

In a video shared on Telegram, the president referenced the "international legion" of 16,000 foreign volunteers he's asked to "join the defense of Ukraine, Europe and the world," per the Post. Earlier this week, Ukraine temporarily lifted certain visa requirements so foreign volunteers could partake in the push to hold back the Russians.

Though foreign citizens have been fighting in Ukraine since 2014, "when Russia-backed separatists seized parts of the Donbas region," experts have noted that this latest international effort is far more ambitious, the Post reports.

After Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba initially called for foreign volunteers last week, "countries like Latvia have voted unanimously to allow their citizens to fight for Ukraine, while leaders in nations such as Denmark and Canada have warned of the dangers but are not stopping their residents from making the individual choice to fight against Russia," the Post writes.

It is legal for U.S. citizens to, under certain circumstances, join foreign militaries, but the State Department has cautioned that citizens might run into trouble if they are recruited or hired while still in America.

Ukraine's General Staff of the Armed Forces said Thursday that anyone interested in fighting for Ukraine "could apply by going to their Ukrainian embassy, or calling or emailing them. Once their application is processed, they will be given assistance on routes to arrive in Ukraine," the Post writes.

It's, at the moment, unclear as to where the 16,000 are coming from. Foreign fighters currently in Ukraine include volunteers from other post-Soviet states, though media reports also suggest "they're from countries such as Japan, Britain and the United States."