Ukraine announces deaths of four foreign military volunteers

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Ukraine announced Saturday the deaths of four foreign military volunteers fighting Russian forces, whose invasion has spurred a wave of solidarity abroad including from experienced combat veterans.

The International Legion of Defense of Ukraine, an official volunteer brigade, announced the men from Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and France had died but did not specify when or under what circumstances.

“We lost our brothers in combat but their bravery, their memory and legacy will forever inspire us,” it said in a statement.

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AFP journalists in Kharkiv last month were present at the May 21 burial of the Dutch citizen named in the statement, Ronald Vogelaar. Colleagues said he had been killed several days earlier by artillery.

The Australian was reported killed in May and his death was confirmed by a foreign affairs department spokesperson.

Tasmania’s Mercury newspaper identified the man as Michael Charles O’Neill, 47. A tribute on Facebook said he was “driving the wounded and injured from the frontline.”

Paris on Friday confirmed that a French volunteer fighter had been killed in combat in Ukraine, following reports that the man died in artillery fire in the Kharkiv region.

The official statement Saturday was accompanied by photographs of the men showing them clad in camouflage and carrying small arms.

The organization says on its website that citizens from countries including Denmark, Israel, Poland, Latvia, Croatia the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Canada have joined their ranks.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the formation of the force at the start of the war and Kyiv shortly afterward said it had received some 20,000 applications.

The conflict, now beyond its 100th day, is also said to have drawn in a significant number of volunteer fighters from ex-Soviet Georgia, which fought a brief and disastrous war with Russia in 2008.

Russia claimed this week to have killed “hundreds” of foreign fighters in Ukraine since its invasion began on February 24 and stemmed the flow of newcomers.

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