Ukrainian Foreign Legion Off to a Rough Start

The most troubling turn of events came just after breakfast. The volunteers lined up and were told that it was time to sign a contract: this stipulated that their pay would be 7,000 hryvnia a month ($230 at the time) and that they would have to remain in the Ukrainian foreign legion for the duration of the war. The contract put them under the same obligations as all Ukrainian men: under martial law, declared by Zelensky on February 24th, no man aged between 18 and 60 is allowed to leave the country. “If you’ve got any commitments at home, you’re going to lose them,” Priday told me. People might lose their jobs or even their houses, if they fall behind on rent or mortgage payments: “7,000 hyrvnia a month is not sustainable”.

Two other sources confirmed to 1843 magazine that the contract binds volunteers to serve for an indefinite length of time. (By way of comparison, the French Foreign Legion requires people to sign up for five years in the first instance.) None of the volunteers 1843 magazine spoke to had been told about the terms of contract before they made the crossing into Ukraine. A source in the Ukrainian ministry of defence also told 1843 magazine that the contract was for an unlimited period. He said that, in practice, those who no longer wished to fight could apply for a discharge and were unlikely to be refused. Between 20 and 30 volunteers have already been allowed to leave after signing on. The ministry of defence spokesman denied that the contract requires volunteers to sign on indefinitely but refused to share a copy.

The terms of the contract are clearly giving some people pause. A number of would-be volunteers in Lviv in western Ukraine, interviewed by 1843 magazine, said they would like to help the war effort but are wary of signing the document. They are now looking for other ways to offer assistance.