Truss says she would back Britons going to Ukraine to fight Russia

Liz Truss has said she would support Britons wanting to go to Ukraine to help it fight the Russian invasion.

In an interview on the BBC One’s Sunday Morning programme, the UK foreign secretary replied “absolutely” when asked whether she would back anyone wanting to volunteer to help the Ukrainians fighting for their freedom.

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.

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

Until now there has been almost no evidence of foreigners going to Ukraine to join the battle against the Russian invasion. But on Sunday, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said he would be setting up an international legion for volunteers.

Zelenskiy, who has won praise around the world for his refusal to flee his capital and the way in which he has inspired his people in the face of Russian aggression, said: “This will be the key evidence of your support for our country.”

Zelenskiy’s proposal seems to be modelled on the international brigades formed in the 1930s to enable foreign volunteers to travel to Spain to support the anti-fascist forces in the civil war. About 4,000 Britons volunteered, including the novelist George Orwell.

Truss’s comment came as a surprise to many because, although support for Ukraine in the UK is high, there is uncertainty about the legality of going abroad to join a foreign war.

The Foreign Enlistment Act 1870 says that it is illegal to enlist in a foreign army at war with a country at peace with the UK. Britons volunteering in the Spanish civil war were threatened with prosecution under this act, but it was deemed unworkable and never used.

More recently, in 2014, the CPS warned that Britons travelling to Syria to join the civil war risked prosecution, even if they were fighting against the dicatator Bashar al-Assad.

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