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Russia-Ukraine war: UK foreign secretary would back Britons travelling to fight

Ukraine's President Zelensky has set up an international unit for volunteers who want to join Ukrainian troops
An Ukrainian soldier walks through debris on the west side of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on 26 February 2022 (AFP)

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said that she would "absolutely" support Britons travelling to Ukraine to join the country’s fight against the Russian invasion.

In an interview on the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme, Truss was asked whether she would back anyone wanting to volunteer to help the Ukrainians fight against Russia.

“Absolutely, if people want to support that struggle I would support them in doing that,” she told the programme.

“That is something people can make their own decisions about. The people of Ukraine are fighting for freedom and democracy, not just for Ukraine but for the whole of Europe,” Truss said.

Truss’s comment has taken many by surprise, as it seems to be a direct violation of the Foreign Enlistment Act 1870, which criminalises British citizens who serve in the armed forces of another country.

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More recently, in 2014, the Crown Prosecution Service warned that Britons travelling to Syria to join the civil war risked prosecution, even if they were fighting against dictator Bashar-al-Assad, said the Guardian newspaper.

Damascus is a staunch ally of Moscow, which intervened in the Syrian civil war in 2015 by launching airstrikes to support the Assad regime's struggling forces. 

Russia's intervention in Syria marked a turning point in the conflict.

In a separate interview with Sky News on Sunday, Truss warned the Russian-Ukraine conflict could last a “number of years” and that the world needs to be prepared for Moscow "to seek to use even worse weapons".

Truss will also press for further measures against Russia at a meeting with her counterparts in the G7 group of rich countries, in particular asking countries to work to find non-Russian suppliers of oil and gas, she told Times Radio.

On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that he would set up an international unit - the International Legion of Territorial Defence of Ukraine - for volunteers who want to join Ukrainian troops to fight the invading Russian forces.

“This will be the key evidence of your support for our country,” he said.