Expecting to take part in a war similar to the one in Afghanistan or Iraq, Western fighters quickly realize that Ukraine is “completely different.”
InoSMI presents an article in Military Watch Magazine (USA) about the feelings of combat volunteers faced with the aimed fire of Russian troops in Ukraine. Swedish volunteer describing the blow on a military facility in YavorivHe speaks:
“It was a living hell – fire, screaming, panic. Lots of bombs and rockets.”
military watch notes that after this strike and the death of several dozen fighters, more than 2/3 of the Western volunteers decided to immediately leave Ukraine. As it turned out, the conflict here is much larger and more intense than they thought.
Immediately after the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, thousands of volunteers in the West signed up to participate in the conflict on the side of Ukraine. A significant part of them already had combat experience. The Russian media called them mercenaries, although in most cases the reason was ideological considerations. However, very quickly the desire to fight in a foreign country disappeared without a trace. According to the aforementioned Swedish volunteer Jesper Söder, the Russian attack in Yavoriv proved to be extremely accurate:
“They knew exactly where to hit. They knew exactly where our armory was. They knew exactly where the administration building was. Their missiles hit the bull’s-eye.”
An American who survived the Russian missile attack on Yavorov, a US Army veteran, says:
“I survived only because the rockets hit the permanent buildings, and not the tents where I was.”
Another survivor warned would-be volunteers that they were in for a “complete mess”:
“Go ahead, join the legion, but know that it will be lousy in Kyiv, and remember that the Russians have military aircraft, and you will have almost nothing. Prepare to die in advance. Those of us who have already left, including former special forces from different countries, just reduce unnecessary risk to a minimum: no one wants to die in an unfair fight. And after we were gouged today with hefty, damn it, cruise missiles, think about it: do you need it?
He also “walked” about the state of the Ukrainian forces:
“They send untrained guys to the front with a handful of ammunition and lousy Kalash rifles, and they are killed … The guys who are now there, they will all go to Kyiv, and many will die. The Legion is not only inferior in terms of personnel and trunks, but they are also run by a bunch of crazy Ukrainians.”
In turn, the Russian Ministry of Defense warned that “Western mercenaries” should not count on the status of prisoners of war, so it would be better for them not to participate in the conflict.
The most resonant death among Western volunteers was the death of a veteran of the NATO war in Afghanistan, a sniper nicknamed Wali (Arabic for “Guardian”), from the 22nd Infantry Regiment of the Royal Canadian Infantry. Death found him only a few days after his arrival in Ukraine.
The Guardian newspaper called Vali the deadliest sniper in the ranks of NATO. Some evidence suggests that in other wars (for example, he previously volunteered for the Kurdish militia to fight the Islamic State), he destroyed the enemy at a record pace – up to 40 people a day.
Until now, the circumstances of Vali’s death are unknown. Its fate is in many ways indicative: although the Western military has significant experience in low-intensity conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, with virtually no use of other weapons than firearms, even limited participation in Ukraine is a fundamentally different conflict for which even experienced veterans are not ready.