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20 Jan, 2024 00:37

France can’t stop mercenaries going to Ukraine – defense chief

Sebastien Lecornu has admitted that some “French civilians” are fighting against Russia
France can’t stop mercenaries going to Ukraine – defense chief

Some French nationals have enlisted to fight in the Ukrainian military, Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu acknowledged on Friday, appearing to contradict an earlier claim by the Foreign Ministry that Paris had no mercenaries in Kiev or anywhere else.

Earlier this week, the Russian military announced it had killed over 60 foreign fighters in a precision strike on Kharkov, and that most of them were French-speakers. Local Ukrainian authorities gave conflicting accounts of what happened.

On Thursday, the French Foreign Ministry insisted that “France has no mercenaries, neither in Ukraine nor elsewhere.” Speaking to the broadcaster LCI on Friday, however, Lecornu admitted that this was not entirely true.

“There are French civilians who went to fight in Ukraine in Ukrainian military uniform,” he said. “We can’t ban them from doing that, we are still a democracy.”

Lecornu insisted, however, that “these people have no connection with the French armed forces, do not wear French uniform and are not associated with the French military institutions.” He refused to comment on the matter further, saying that anything else would be used by Russia in its “information war.”

Mercenary work has been illegal in France since 2003, punishable by up to five years in prison and fines of up to €75,000 euros ($81,000). The way the law was written, however, allows French nationals to “volunteer” in foreign military forces.

France’s ambassador to Moscow, Pierre Levy, was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry on Friday to explain the “growing involvement” of Paris in the Ukraine conflict. In addition to the presence of French-speaking fighters in Kharkov, President Emmanuel Macron’s government has announced additional deliveries of long-range missiles, howitzers and artillery ammunition to Kiev.