More than 70 people living in Belgium have signed up to fight in Ukraine as part of its Foreign Legion; 21 are ready to leave and take up arms at the front in the war-torn country on Thursday.
The total tally was confirmed by the Ukrainian embassy in Brussels, which put out a call to foreign citizens last week asking them to sign up to help Ukraine in the fight against Russia as part of the Foreign Legion announced by Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky when the country was invaded.
"The volunteers are being sent on a regular basis," a staff member of the Ukrainian embassy in Brussels confirmed to the Brussels Times.
Those who leave today will be sent to the border with Poland, De Standaard reports. They have their documents in order, have been interviewed and have valid passports, according to the embassy's second secretary, Vladislava Litiaga.
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Among the people who signed up through the embassy's application procedure are French, Luxembourgers, Italians and Moroccans who live in Belgium. "But the majority are Belgians, who have no link with Ukraine," Litiaga said.
Foreigners have the right to join the Armed Forces of Ukraine for military service under a voluntary contract according to a decree approved by the previous President of Ukraine in 2016. A separate subdivision is being formed named the International Legion for the Territorial Defense of Ukraine. Civilians are also given foreign legion protection under this status.
Belgium asks for investigation of alleged war crimes
At the initiative of the UK, Belgium will join a number of other countries in asking the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to open an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed.
The direct request by a range of ICC states is expected to speed up the process and allow the court to "immediately conduct an independent and objective investigation into the most serious of the alleged crimes."
🇧🇪🇺🇦 Even for President Putin, there are rules in war. Attacking civilians is a war crime.That’s why Belgium will join the UK in formally requesting the @IntlCrimCourt to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine. — Alexander De Croo 🇧🇪🇪🇺 (@alexanderdecroo) March 2, 2022
Last week, President Zelensky already announced Ukraine's submission against Russia to the International Court of Justice in the same Dutch city, saying "Russia must be held accountable for manipulating the notion of genocide to justify aggression."
"The prosecutor of the ICC announced on 28 February that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in recent years in Ukraine and that he intends to include the new allegations of crimes in this investigation," a statement read.
This article was updated at 17:35 to include a statement from the Ukrainian embassy in Brussels.