BROVARY, Ukraine (Reuters) – Three U.S. volunteer fighters who have risked their lives alongside Ukrainian soldiers said they had joined the struggle against Russian forces to stop civilians suffering and in the name of freedom.
The group, including a female college student from New York who works at JFK airport, spoke of their narrow escape after they said the vehicle they were travelling in hit a land mine on Sunday on the frontline near the capital Kyiv.
Reuters could not independently verify the identity of the three foreign fighters nor their description of the incident.
A Ukrainian combatant who was with the three at the time was being treated at Brovary Hospital on the outskirts of the capital after suffering serious injuries.
"We thought he was dead, he was slumped over and unresponsive," Alexis Antilla, who was acting as a combat medic for the team of fighters and was herself injured in the explosion, told Reuters at the hospital.
"When the fire started to consume him, he started to wake up and we were able to get him out," she said.
Speaking a couple of hours after the incident, Antilla said a second landmine exploded shortly after the first, sending rounds of ammunition that the group was carrying flying past their heads.
Despite the close encounter with death, she said she wanted to return to the frontline as soon as her injuries healed.
"I felt a calling to come here, I felt like it was the right thing to do, I feel like what's happening here, what Putin is doing, is evil," she said.
"There is no need to put millions and millions of people through the suffering and torment that they are going through, and I felt I had to be here to help in any way that I could."
Red Taylor, from Tennessee, said that the Ukrainian with them spoke good English and spotted the landmine but that the group "could not even count a second between the time he said there are landmines everywhere and the 'boom'".
Their commander, who only gave his name as Rob and said he was from Connecticut, has been fighting in Ukraine for three weeks.
"I don't like what they are doing to the civilians and what they are doing to all these people. My boys and me feel the same. There has to be justice in this world for people that want to live free, and that's what we fight for," he said.
Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, calling it a "special operation" to demilitarize Ukraine and capture nationalists. While Ukraine's armed forces are heavily outnumbered, they have mounted significant resistance.
Ukraine has also established an international legion for people from abroad, and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has publicly urged foreigners to come and fight side-by-side with Ukrainians against the Russians, whom he describes as "war criminals".
Zelenskiy has said that more than 16,000 foreigners have volunteered, without specifying how many had arrived.
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