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8 Feb, 2024 09:53

Kiev attracting Colombian veterans with big salaries – AP

Ukraine is reportedly targeting Spanish-speaking mercenaries to bolster its manpower on the battlefield
Kiev attracting Colombian veterans with big salaries – AP

Dozens of Colombian military veterans have been enticed by Kiev to fight against Russia, according to a report published by the Associated Press (AP) on Thursday.

The mercenaries are being attracted by large paychecks and the prospect of frontline action, but their families may be denied closure in the event of their deaths.

AP witnessed some 50 Colombians recovering at a military hospital at an undisclosed location in Ukraine. One of them claimed that his unit alone included 100 of his compatriots. The report featured multiple photos of the foreign fighters.

Some 10,000 soldiers retire from the Colombian military each year, AP said. Those who travel to Ukraine can earn four times their former salary. The Ukrainian government is promising to pay mercenaries up to $3,300 a month, as well as offering compensation to those injured or killed in action.

Some veterans of Colombia’s wars with drug cartels were previously hired by the UAE for its military intervention in Yemen, the news agency noted. Around 20 South American mercenaries carried out the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise in 2021.

A retired combat medic who runs training courses outside Bogota told AP that he had trained more than 20 Colombians in the past eight months who went on to fight in Ukraine.

”They’re like the Latin American migrants who go to the US in search of a better future,” said Hector Bernal. “These are not volunteers who want to defend another country’s flag. They are simply motivated by economic need.”

A Ukrainian official coordinating Kiev’s mercenary deployments told AP that his government had stepped up its efforts to recruit from the pool of Spanish-speaking fighters. People who went to fight for Ukraine in the first year of the conflict were mostly Russian and English speakers.

The report noted that it is hard for the families of Kiev’s mercenaries to get information about their loved ones “when something goes wrong.” It cited the case of Oscar Triana, who stopped posting updates on his social media six weeks after joining the Ukrainian military last August. He is considered MIA after his unit was ambushed near the city of Kharkov, the agency established.

Diego Espitia, his cousin, told AP that the 43-year-old had experienced difficulties adjusting to civilian life after serving for 20 years in the Colombian Army.

”It could’ve been for the money, or because he missed the adrenaline of being in combat,” Espitia said.

The Russian military considers all mercenaries fighting for Kiev to be legitimate targets. Last month, it claimed killing some 60 foreign fighters, most of them French nationals, in a long-range strike in Kharkov. Moscow said Paris was to blame for the deaths, accusing the French government of turning a blind eye to such people for the sake of waging a proxy war on Russia.