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Foreign Secretary "Absolutely" Backs Brits Who Want To Join Ukraine's Armed Resistance

4 min read

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss gave her backing to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy's calls for people from around the world to join "International Brigades" to support their fight against Russia.

Truss said she would support British people joining so-called "International Brigades" after President Zelenskyy said any foreign national who came to the country would be given weapons to help fight the Russian invasion.

"I do support that, and of course, that is something people can make their own decisions about," Truss told the BBC.

"The people of Ukraine are fighting for freedom and democracy. Not just for Ukraine, but for the whole of Europe because that is what President Putin is challenging, and absolutely if people want to support that struggle I would support them in doing that."

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has repeatedly stated that British troops would not be deployed to Ukraine because the country is not a part of the Nato defence alliance.

Truss said that the UK is doing "all we can to support with defensive weapons," alongside several other Western allies. 

"Last night we saw the Germans are contributing defensive weapons for the first time," she added.  

"The UK led on this, we were the first European country to supply defensive weapons into Ukraine, but we are now seeing our allies doing that."

Calls for further assistance came after Ukrainian forces repelled further Russian attacks across the country, including in the capital Kyiv, where thousands of local residents have taken up arms in anticipation of a fully-fledged assault.

Zelenskyy, alongside members of Ukraine's parliament, have personally taken to the streets to help lead the armed resistance against Russian president Vladimir Putin's forces despite escalating shelling and rocket attacks launched against the Ukrainian capital.Speaking on Sunday, Zelenskyy called for further support to help "destroy the occupiers", including encouraging foreigners to travel to Ukraine to join the fight.

"If you can destroy the occupiers please do it. Everyone who can come back to Ukraine please come back to defend Ukraine," he said. "After that we will have a lot of work to do to rebuild. Everyone who can defend Ukraine abroad please do it, do it in a united way.

"Every friend of Ukraine who wants to join Ukraine in defending the country please come over, we will give you weapons."

Ukraine's minister for foreign affairs Dmytro Kuleba said on Sunday that people wanting to join the fight should contact their local Ukrainian embassy.

"Foreigners willing to defend Ukraine and world order as part of the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine, I invite you to contact foreign diplomatic missions of Ukraine in your respective countries.

"Together we defeated Hitler, and we will defeat Putin too."

In recent days the UK has faced criticism for not offering enough support for Ukrainians fleeing the country and trying to reach the UK. While visa extensions have been offered to Ukrainians in the UK, no additional waivers are being offered to those without an existing tie to the country. 

Truss also said the government was doing "all we can" to support Ukrainian refugees following the criticism that the UK's scheme did not go far enough in simplifying visa controls.

On Saturday immigration minister Kevin Foster faced a backlash over his suggestion that Ukrainian's fleeing the Russian invasion could apply to pick fruit on British farms.

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said the UK's current visa scheme for Ukrainians was "immoral".

"We have to have a generous scheme that is equivalent to the scheme offered during the Balkans crisis," Lammy told the BBC.

"Our country has a generous history, look at those who were fleeing Idi Amin, the Ugandan Asians, fleeing Cyprus, the Vietnamese boat people. Instead we have a scheme where we are asking people to jump through hoops. There is  bureaucracy, there is red tape," he continued.

"Why would we ask people what their salary levels are when they are fleeing war. That is immoral that is not in the traditions of this country. The Home Secretary has to do more and she should be acting quickly."

Responding to the criticism, Truss suggested fresh steps could be taken to "expedite" the process.

"We are looking at what more we can do," she said. "The Prime Minister was very clear that we will be welcoming refugees from Ukraine. We are already expediting our visa processes, our passport processes. We have a 24/7 operation running at the Foreign Office helping people with emergency travel documents.

"But we are looking at what more we can do, and we will be saying much more about this very shortly."

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