Internal fighting and military record among US volunteers in Ukraine: NYT

  • Infighting has plagued some American volunteers who fought in Ukraine, according to a New York Times report.
  • The feuds not only threatened the war effort, but exposed deeply consequential lies.
  • Some volunteers left the war effort in Ukraine after questions arose about their origins.

After Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine last year, groups of Americans – many of whom were US military veterans – pledged to fight in the conflict to help the Ukrainian government repel Moscow’s advances. .

But a recent New York Times report detailed how many of those volunteers became mired in infighting, jeopardizing the success of the war effort, while some poured money down the toilet after buying military equipment. less effective and others have sought to make money from the conflict. .

The Times spoke to more than 30 volunteers, fighters and officials in the United States and Ukraine about these situations.

In one case, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel may have illegally exported military technology, while in another case, a former army soldier came to Ukraine to help with the war effort. , but later defected to Russia.

And a Connecticut man who went to fight in Ukraine and posted his battlefield location admitted to The Times that he falsified his military record, previously claiming to be a Marine.

While some volunteers who made it to Ukraine were killed during the war, the spotlight on the role of volunteers has increased exponentially as the conflict passed the one-year mark.

Foreign Legion volunteers in Ukraine.

Foreign Legion volunteers in Ukraine.

Courtesy of Hieu Le/Facebook

“I had to tell a million lies to move on”

In interviews conducted by The Times, individuals told the paper of mistakes and disputes that have limited the effectiveness of the volunteers’ effort since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

At the start of the war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy encouraged the allies to help the country defend itself against Russian forces. While some people have joined the International Legion, which Ukraine created last year as a foreign military unit, others have helped fundraising efforts for the conflict.

However, some people who would otherwise have raised red flags have apparently been able to integrate into the Legion and other groups – blatantly misrepresenting the facts about their backgrounds, according to the Times.

James Vasquez, a home improvement contractor from Connecticut who made waves when he left for Ukraine last year, has been hailed as a former Army staff sergeant who decided to help the country fight for its freedom.

But according to The Times, Vasquez not only revealed the exact location of his unit after posting a video online, he also misrepresented his service records. Vasquez was never sent to Kuwait or Iraq, according to a Pentagon spokeswoman who spoke to The Times, and apparently misrepresented his duties and rank during his short stint in the Army Reserves.

But Vasquez had no problem accessing weapons in Ukraine, which included American rifles. But he wasn’t sure where they came from.

“I’m not exactly sure,” he told The Times in an exchange of text messages. “We have a lot.”

Vasquez fought in Ukraine until last week when The Times asked him about his military record; he later deactivated his Twitter account and said he was considering leaving the country as he had fought alongside soldiers with no military contract required.

He told The Times he was kicked out of the military, but did not elaborate on the reasoning. Yet he revealed that for years he had been dishonest about his military record.

“I had to tell a million lies to get ahead,” he told The Times. “I didn’t realize it was going to come to this.”

Malcolm Nance, former United States Navy chief petty officer and intelligence and foreign policy analyst.  He is currently part of the 3rd Battalion of the International Legion in Ukraine.

Malcolm Nance, former United States Navy chief petty officer and intelligence and foreign policy analyst.

Malcolm Nance

Another major problem that has arisen is that of unnecessary expenses, motivated not by malice, but by individuals unaware of the effectiveness of certain tools.

For example, Mriya Aid, which is commanded by a Canadian lieutenant colonel, used about $100,000 in donated money to buy night vision devices, but they were found to be less effective than those made in China, according to documents reviewed. by The Times.

After the volunteer group, Ripley’s Heroes, spent about $63,000 on night vision and thermal devices, some equipment fell under US export restrictions.

And Ripley’s Heroes also bought $25,000 for remote-controlled scout cars in 2022, but they haven’t been delivered yet, blocked by Polish authorities due to legal issues, The Times reported.

“A confirmed crook”

After the International Legion was formed, volunteers were quickly processed in about 10 minutes or less, according to a Legion official who spoke to The Times.

Such missteps may have accelerated problems in the unit.

A Polish fugitive who had been imprisoned in Ukraine for weapons violations has finally won a place at the head of the troops, according to the Times.

And while Ukrainian officials estimated there were possibly 20,000 Legion volunteers, that number was officially much smaller.

People familiar with the Legion told The Times that there were around 1,500 members in the unit. (A recent Vice article detailed how thousands of volunteers have left Ukraine since the conflict began.)

One such member was John McIntyre, a former US Army private first class who was kicked out of the Legion for “misconduct”, according to The Times. He then left for Russia and the media said he was supposed to have given some sort of intelligence information to Moscow.

Malcolm Nance, a former Navy cryptologist and well-known cable news commentator, told Insider’s Alia Shoaib and Bethany Dawson that McIntyre was “a very unstable character” who “was known to be a professional asshole and a sick mental”.

Nance told the newspaper he had come to Ukraine to provide structure for the Legion. But he found himself embroiled in some of the infighting surrounding the dispute, calling a former ally a “big guy” and calling an associate a “confirmed crook”, according to the Times.

Nance is no longer in Ukraine but has not stopped his fundraising efforts with another group of allies, including Ben Lackey, who was once in the Legion.

Lackey told Legion members he was a Marine and said he had been an assistant manager at the LongHorn Steakhouse. But the Pentagon told The Times that Lackey had no military experience, and the steakhouse chain revealed he was a waiter, not an assistant manager.

In conversation with The Times, Lackey said he had never been a Marine, but revealed he said so in order to join the Legion.


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