Around 16,000 volunteers are expected to help Ukrainians fight off a Russian attack that has already lasted more than a week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday in a video address.
According to various reports, thousands of volunteers from the U.S. as well as others from Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Poland are ready to join the fight. As of Tuesday, both Ukraine and Russia had suffered around 1,500 military deaths each, according to The New York Times.
United Nations data indicates there have been 331 civilian deaths since the invasion began and 675 injuries. More than 1 million Ukrainians have fled the country.
Although Ukraine has one of Europe’s largest militaries with 170,000 active-duty troops and 100,000 reservists, it is outnumbered by the approximately 900,000 people enlisted in the Russian Federation military.
“Ukraine receives weapons from its partners on a daily basis. From real friends. More and more powerful weapons every day,” said Zelensky. “Ukraine is already meeting foreign volunteers who are going to our country. The first of 16,000. They are going to defend freedom. Defend life. For us. For us all. And it will be successful. I’m sure.”
So far, the 16,000 figure announced by Zelensky has not been confirmed, said NBC News.
Last week, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba urged foreign volunteers to fight for Ukraine.
According to the Embassy of Ukraine in USA Facebook page, those interested can fill out a form to join the newly formed International Legion. Since Ukraine is not in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the U.S. has not yet sent troops directly to the country.
A U.S. defense official at the Ukrainian embassy in Washington D.C. said they have already received more than 3,000 applications from U.S.
citizens, including applications from many veterans, according to The Military Times.
As of Thursday, several hundred volunteers had already arrived in Ukraine, said a government official there.
“Ukraine officials stress to Military Times that they are looking for foreign volunteers with combat experience who require little training before being armed and sent to the front line,” said the outlet.
While it is legal for Americans to volunteer to fight for another country, it is not legal for Ukraine to hire them.
According to NBC, “small groups of determined-looking men,” were heading over the border from Poland to Ukraine Thursday to fight off the Russians and “many of the men had black tactical boots hanging from their duffle bags.”
“I’m going to fight,” a 62-year-old man from Great Britain who identified himself as “Ian” told NBC correspondent Jay Gray. Based on the license plates on vehicles that dropped off others headed to the border, they came from Italy and Germany as well.
Mathieu Dos Santos, a 34-year-old French real estate agent, said he planned to leave France with a group of fellow volunteers, according to a Thursday report in The New York Times.
“I’m going to help our European compatriots,” Dos Santos said. A former member of the French Army, he said he was doing so “in the continuity” of his “commitment” to serve France.
A private Facebook group for French volunteers in Ukraine has more than 8,000 members.
While volunteers from the U.S. and Europe prepare to help Ukraine, Russians continue to attack. As of Friday, Russian troops had taken control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and had attacked the cities of Chernihiv, Mariupol and Kharkiv, according to CNN.