ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) — The Ukrainian Foreign Legion is rapidly gaining fighters from across the world.

According to the Ukrainian government, over 20 thousand volunteers have joined the “International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine” – an official path for foreigners to serve in the nation’s fight against Russia. 

According to officials, these numbers are highly exaggerated. And yet… at least 6000 Americans have applied to join, according to the Ukrainian Embassy in the US. Other volunteers are from countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, and Israel. 18 News spoke with one local veteran to get their perspective.

“The American Legion tries to be non-political. We all have our own views and opinions… I think it’s a good thing, personally, for them to go over, but I think they need to be very careful as to what they’re getting into… If you were in the army back during a conflict time and you actually were in combat, you’re better schooled in it. But for somebody like me to go over there, it would not be a good idea…”

Chuck Muller – Commander of American Legion Post 442 – Horseheads

Many government officials across the world are supporting the initiative, even going so far as to encourage their citizens to fight alongside the Ukrainian army… even if governments generally have to stay silent about the volunteer forces to avoid provoking Russia.

According to US Law it is illegal for US citizens to take up arms against any country at peace with the United States, but there is historical precedent for volunteer combat forces around the world… including from America, such as the American “Flying Tigers” fighter squadron fighting in China in the 1930s, and volunteers from around the world fighting on both sides of the Spanish Civil War at that same time.