Russia continues to produce fakes about Ukraine's International Legion

Russia continues to produce fakes about Ukraine's International Legion

Fact Check
Austria's foreign and interior ministries have dismissed allegations by the Russian Defense Ministry about "Austrian mercenaries" killed in Ukraine

The International Legion for the Defense of Ukraine, in which foreign volunteer fighters help the Ukrainians repel Russian aggression, has been troubling Kremlin propagandists since its inception. Ukrinform has repeatedly written about Russian disinformation campaigns aimed at demonizing this armed formation within the Ukrainian Armed Forces and disrupting further recruitment of legionnaires.

One such ongoing campaign by the Russians is the dissemination of information about allegedly heavy casualties among the fighters of the International Legion. On March 14, the Russian Defense Ministry published on its Telegram channel an "update" on the "number of foreign mercenaries in Ukraine," according to which as many as 13,387 foreigners have arrived in Ukraine to fight against the Russian aggressor since February 24, 2022. At the same time, almost half of them – 5,962 people – were allegedly already killed by the occupiers. "At the moment, the destruction has been confirmed...," the Russian Defense Ministry wrote, without specifying who confirmed this and how this was confirmed.

It is obvious that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should have known about the death of its citizens in a foreign country. Ukrinform's correspondent in Austria decided to contact the Austrian Foreign Ministry with a request to comment on claims made by the Russian Defense Ministry that ten "Austrian mercenaries" (out of 28) have already been killed in action in Ukraine.

The Austrian Foreign Ministry denied this Russian fake.

"We have no information about Austrians who died during hostilities in Ukraine," Antonia Praun, a spokesperson for the Austrian Foreign Ministry, said in a comment to Ukrinform.

In addition, Ukrinform's correspondent also asked the Austrian Interior Ministry to comment on reports about "Austrian mercenaries" in Ukraine, which were spread by Russia and picked up, in particular, by the tabloid Austrian newspaper Heute. The ministry, referring to data from the main Austrian special service, which is structurally part of the department, also denied this Russian disinformation.

"In response to your request, we can inform you that the Directorate of State Security and Intelligence (DSN) cannot confirm this," the ministry said.

In addition, it was noted that the Directorate of State Security and Intelligence has "little information" about the participation of Austrian citizens in hostilities in Ukraine. Overall, the Austrian special services know about a "single-digit number" (no more than nine) of people who left Austria for Ukraine after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, but it is not clear whether these people took part in hostilities.

"DSN is aware of a single-digit number of people who left Austria for Ukraine after the start of the war. Whether these people took part in hostilities is the subject of an ongoing investigation," the Austrian Interior Ministry said.

At the same time, they added that "there is currently no systematic recruitment and departure of volunteers to participate in the war in Ukraine (foreign fighters) in Austria."

Vasyl Korotkyi, Vienna

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