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The State Department on Friday warned US citizens against participating in the war in Ukraine.
The warning came amid increasing reports of US citizens volunteering to assist the Ukrainian military in its fight against invading Russian forces.
“US citizens who travel to Ukraine — especially with the purpose of participating in fighting there — they face significant risks, including the very real risk of capture or death,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price during a Friday press briefing.” The United States, as you know, is not able to provide assistance to evacuate US citizens from Ukraine, including those Americans who may decide to travel to Ukraine to participate in the ongoing war.”
Price noted that Russia has said “it intends to treat foreign fighters in Ukraine as ‘mercenaries’ rather than as lawful combatants or prisoners of war.”
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“While we expect Russia to respect all of its obligations under the law of war, in light of this very concerning statement, US citizens detained by Russian authorities in Ukraine, they may be subject to potential attempts at criminal prosecution and may be at heightened risk for mistreatment,” he said. “Given our obligation to the American people to speak clearly about what we know, we wanted to communicate that in no uncertain terms.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy created a foreign military legion called the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine days after Russia invaded on Feb. 24 and lifted visa restrictions for foreign volunteers.
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“Anyone who wants to join the defense of Ukraine, Europe and the world can come and fight side by side with the Ukrainians against the Russian war criminals,” a Feb. 27 press release from his office states.
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The State Department is trying to entertain Americans interested in helping Ukraine toward “safe, constructive, volunteer or civil society activities,” Price said.
He continued: “We know that the Ukrainian people — they need humanitarian assistance, they need funds, they need advocates for their cause around the world. And we applaud Americans across this country, and those around the world, who are using their skills, their passion, their energy, their resources to assist the various NGOs that are working to support this important mission in the United States or around the world.”