British soldier in Ukraine ‘under no illusions’ after comrades killed

A British soldier in Ukraine has said he is “under no illusions” as to the reality of fighting in the war against Russia after watching his fellow soldiers die in action.

Ajay Spence, from Northern Ireland, arrived in Ukraine a month ago after volunteering to join the foreign military unit of Ukraine’s armed forces.

He told the Ukrainian embassy in Dublin about his previous military experience in Afghanistan and Iraq, and was soon on his way to Poland before entering Ukraine.

Since Russia’s ongoing invasion on Ukraine began, its foreign legion has been joined by 20,000 volunteers – as estimated by the foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba – from all over the world, with the largest numbers coming from the UK and US.

Mr Spence was inspired to join Ukrainian forces after seeing the news coverage of the Russian invasion.

His unit was deployed on front line operations in towns around Kyiv, including Irpin and Bucha, where they focused on “observation missions”, “advancing” and “drawing out fire”.

A view shows the building of a destroyed theater in Mariupol


Speaking to BBC News, Mr Spence said “It’s been pretty heavy work at times. It’s not like Iraq, that was a guerrilla warfare situation this is a conventional war situation against mechanized infantry.”

Shortly after his arrival, Mr Spence witnessed two Georgian soldiers in his unit die in front of him.

“They were killed by indirect fire, one bled to death, the other was killed instantly. We carried one of them, trying to save him, while there was heavy shelling around us,” he said.

“I’m under no illusions about that, I’m willing to accept that. I’m here to do a job which is to help the Ukrainian people. You just think about stuff like that later, and get on with the job in hand.”

Elsewhere, rescuers search for bodies under the rubble of a building destroyed by Russian shelling in Borodyanka, Kyiv region


At the start of the war, foreign secretary Liz Truss said: “The people of Ukraine are fighting for freedom and democracy, not just for Ukraine but also for the whole of Europe because that is what President Vladimir Putin is challenging.

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

This map shows the extent of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

(Press Association Images)

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson later publicly distanced himself from her comments.

A spokesperson said: “We think the best way to help Ukraine would be to ensure Putin fails. There are a number of ways that Brits can show their support.

“The Ukrainian embassy in London is putting up information about how British people can support them.

“We fully recognize the strength of feeling about British people wanting to support the Ukrainians following the Russian invasion. There is advice up on traveling to Ukraine. We currently advise against traveling to Ukraine, as you can see from the website.”

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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