US won’t track citizens who travel to Ukraine to fight
Washington has no plans to keep track of US citizens who volunteer to fight for Ukraine amid the ongoing Russian attack, the State Department said, warning, however, that such trips can result in “capture or death.”
“When Americans travel abroad they are not required to register with the Department of State in any way, so these are not metrics we would track,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters on Friday, when asked how many Americans have traveled to Ukraine amid Kiev’s recruitment campaign for a “foreign legion.”
Price noted that the US government still urges Americans to avoid going to Ukraine, but suggested no action would be taken against those who opt to do so.
The spokesman went on to say that travel to Ukraine poses “risks to personal safety,” and that US citizens “should be aware that Russia has stated that it intends to treat foreign fighters in Ukraine as ‘mercenaries’ rather than as lawful combatants or prisoners of war.”
Washington, nevertheless, expects Moscow to “respect all of its obligations and law of war,” Price noted, warning of “potential attempts at criminal prosecution” and a “heightened risk for mistreatment” for the American “volunteers.”
The comments follow reports that around 100 Americans had been screened to join Kiev’s forces as they fight Russian troops after Ukraine explicitly called on foreign volunteers to join the conflict. Citizens from a number of other countries have also lined up to do the same. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed that some 16,000 foreign fighters were expected to arrive in Ukraine last week.
Moscow attacked its neighbor in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.