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29 Mar, 2024 17:00

Foreign fighter in Ukraine confirms mercenary deaths

At least 20 Poles have died in battle, Piotr Mitkiewicz told RMF radio
Foreign fighter in Ukraine confirms mercenary deaths

At least 20 Polish nationals fighting for Kiev have been killed in battle, according to one soldier of Ukraine’s foreign legion, who spoke to Polish radio on Friday.

Piotr Mitkiewicz joined the ‘International Territorial Defense Legion of Ukraine’ in May 2022 and has frequently spoken to Polish media about his experiences. His latest testimonial was on Krakow-based RMF radio’s Morning Talk.

“There are not many,” he said when asked how many Poles were fighting for Ukraine. “I have been there the longest and I know most of those who are there. But I will say this: Up to 20 of us have died.”

Mitkiewicz’s estimate is far lower than official Russian accounts, however. Earlier this month, the Russian Defense Ministry put the number of Polish mercenaries killed since the start of the conflict at 1,497 – more than half of the 2,960 that have enlisted for Ukraine’s cause.

The Polish mercenary also gave a harrowing account of what it’s like to be on the battlefield.

“Everything wants to kill you,” he told RMF. “There are mines under your feet. A man can get within 30 meters of you and throw a grenade. At 100 meters, there is a man with a [Kalashnikov]. There’s a guy standing 400 meters away with a heavy machine gun, he also wants to kill you. There’s a sniper 800 meters away. A tank is shooting from two kilometers away, and there’s artillery 10km away, also shooting at you.”

First Person View (FPV) drones are the latest battlefield horror, Mitkiewicz said, noting that they have “changed all tactics, changed this war.”

Commercial remotely piloted UAVs were initially used for observation, until both the Russians and Ukrainians began equipping them with improvised munitions. Purpose-built killer drones are now being used by both militaries.

Moscow has estimated that at least 13,387 foreign fighters have taken up arms on behalf of Kiev, of which 5,962 have been killed. While Poland has accounted for most of the mercenaries, the US was second on the list, with 1,113 fighters – of which at least 491 have been killed, according to Russian military estimates.