A Nigerian national told the BBC on Wednesday he is willing to fight for Ukraine in its latest war against Russia and would volunteer to do so because he believes “being a soldier in Ukraine would be better than being here,” referring to his life in Lagos, Nigeria.

Ottah Abraham, 27, told the British public broadcaster he lives in a “small apartment” in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, and is a “philosophy graduate.” Despite having an education and a home, Abraham says he imagines life in war-torn Ukraine would be an improvement from his current environment.


“We know that it’s war, it’s not child’s play,” he told the BBC in an interview published on March 16. “But being a soldier in Ukraine would be better than being here.”

“I’ll probably be allowed to stay if the war ends, plus I’ll be a hero and fight an undeniable enemy,” the man added.

Abraham is one of “several hundred Africans, from countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa and Algeria, who say they are willing to take up arms in the battle against Russia [in Ukraine], partly to escape the bleak prospects faced by many young men at home,” according to the BBC.

The Associated Press

A volunteer of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces stands next to his APC in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Marienko)

Russia’s military launched an air and ground offensive in neighboring Ukraine on February 24. The ongoing conflict began three days after the Kremlin announced it would formally recognize two Russian-backed separatist groups in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass territory known as the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) as countries.

A motorist

A motorist fill his tank with fuel bought with a jerrycan to avoid long queues formed during a fuel shortage in Lagos and neighboring Ogun State, on March 3, 2022. (Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on February 27 Ukraine was organizing an “international” legion for foreigners wishing to support the Ukrainian army in its war against Russia.

AFP

Building collapses are tragically common in Lagos (AFP)

“Everyone who wants to join the defense of security in Europe and the world may come and stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukrainians against the invaders of the 21st Century,” he was quoted as saying on his official website.

UPI

Volodymyr Zelensky (UPI)

“The government [of Ukriane] has temporarily axed its visa requirements and offered equipment and a salary to those with a valid passport and military training,” the BBC observed on March 16 of Kyiv’s scheme to lure foreign fighters to Ukraine.

The government of Ukraine has not provided any official confirmation that members of its “international” legion will be allowed to stay in Ukraine after the war.

“Nigeria discourages the use of mercenaries anywhere in the world and will not tolerate the recruitment,” Nigeria’s foreign ministry wrote in a statement to the BBC this week when asked about the possibility of Nigerians volunteering to join Ukraine’s “international” legion.

A Ukrainian embassy official in Nigeria named Bohdan Soltys told the broadcaster Kyiv was “not paying Africans to fight.” He said anyone hoping to join the Ukrainian army in its latest war against Russia “would have to pay for their own flights to reach Europe.”

“There’s a fine line between foreign volunteers and mercenaries,” he told the BBC.

The broadcaster spoke to Liubov Abravitova — Ukraine’s ambassador to South Africa, Mozambique, and Botswana — this week to learn the fate of the hundreds of Africans outside of Nigeria who have expressed interest in fighting for Ukraine in recent days.

Abravitova told the BBC “hundreds of people from across southern Africa had volunteered to fight or work in a humanitarian capacity [in Ukraine] — but she was unable to act on their requests as she was waiting for instructions from their governments.”

The government of South Africa, for example, has a strict law against mercenaries, the envoy pointed out.

Russia’s government, for its part, said on March 11 it had received offers from 16,000 foreigners interested in volunteering to fight for Russia in its latest military conflict with Ukraine.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said his ministry had received “numerous requests from various volunteers from various countries, who want to come to the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics to participate in what they believe is a liberation movement.”

“The majority of requests came from the Middle East, as we have received over 16,000 of them,” he told a meeting of Russia’s Security Council.

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