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Commander gives estimate on Britons fighting for Ukraine

As many as 3,000 British nationals are fighting alongside Ukrainian troops against Russian forces, Britain’s The Independent newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing a foreign volunteer unit commander.

Mamuka Mamulashvili, who leads the so-called Georgian Legion, told journalists that a total of nearly 20,000 foreign fighters are currently serving in volunteer units in Ukraine. According to Mamulashvili’s estimates, almost a seventh of them are UK citizens, or almost 3,000.

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The commander went on to reveal that Britons were the second most represented group among the overseas fighters, followed by Americans.

London has not published an official tally of Britons who have gone to fight for Ukraine.

Since Moscow attacked its neighbour, UK top officials have sent mixed messages on British volunteers heading to the conflict zone.

READ MORE: Moscow clarifies status of UK citizens sentenced to death

Speaking on BBC One’s Sunday Morning program in late February, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss argued: “that is something people can make their own decisions about,” adding that “if people want to support” Ukrainians’ struggle “for freedom and democracy,” she “would support them in doing that.

At the same time, Truss’ own department’s website warned that those traveling to Ukraine to “fight, or assist others engaged in the conflict” could be prosecuted when they come back to the UK.

Downing Street was quick to publicly distance itself from the Foreign Secretary’s remarks at the time, with a spokesperson urging British citizens to heed the relevant travel advice.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace noted that “unless you are properly trained, there are better ways to contribute to the security of Ukraine.

In an interview with the BBC in early March, Admiral Sir Anthony David Radakin, head of the British Armed Forces, echoed that sentiment, saying it would be “unlawful and unhelpful” for British active military service personnel to travel to the war zone.

A number of former British soldiers have nonetheless traveled to fight alongside the Ukrainian military. At least two of them have been killed so far.

Jordan Gatley, 24, was fatally shot in the city of Severodonetsk, with his family being informed on Friday.

In late April, another UK national, Scott Sibley, was confirmed dead in Ukraine. In an obituary on social media, his friends described him as a “former serving soldier.

Last Thursday, a court in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) found two British fighters, captured in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, guilty of acting as mercenaries and attempting to seize power by force in the DPR. Both Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner were sentenced to death.

London has dismissed the trial as a “sham,” insisting that the two men are legitimate members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and should be treated as prisoners of war.

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