Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has temporarily lifted a visa requirement for foreign nationals who wish to join Ukraine’s “International Defence Legion” to fight against Russia.
Zelensky signed a decree late Monday, which will take effect on Tuesday and remain in effect as long as martial law persists. Foreigners—with the exception of Russian citizens–won’t need a visa to enter Ukraine if they are joining the legion to fight Russian troops, according to the decree, The Kyiv Independent first reported.
On Sunday, Zelensky had issued a plea to foreigners to come fight with Ukraine, reported New Voice of Ukraine. By early Monday, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister claimed that the country received “thousands” of requests from foreigners to join the war.
Zelensky also announced Monday he will release prisoners with combat experience to defend Ukraine.
“Under martial law, participants in hostilities—Ukrainians with real combat experience—will be released from custody and will be able to compensate for their guilt in the hottest spots of war. All sanctions are lifted from some people who took part in the anti-terrorist operation. The key now is defense,” he said.
The Ukrainian government has also been providing some of its citizens with basic military training.
Meanwhile, authorities in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, which has about 3 million people, have been handing out weapons to anyone willing to defend the city as Russian troops close in.
On Monday, talks in Belarus between Ukrainian and Russian officials aimed at reaching a ceasefire ended with no agreement, except to continue talks later.
Zelensky, in a video address late Monday, said Russian forces have intensified their shelling of Ukraine while the talks were underway. He also said Russians have shelled the city of Kharkiv with rocket artillery.
The escalation of conflict between Ukraine and Russia occurred around Feb. 24, when Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a “special military operation” against Ukraine. Putin said the military operation is a response to threats coming from Ukraine and is intended to protect civilians and demilitarize Ukraine.
At the time, Putin said that Russia has no plan to occupy Ukraine and that the Ukrainian military should “immediately lay down its arms.” Putin didn’t specify how long the operation would be expected to take. Following his announcement, explosions were reported in multiple Ukrainian cities.
Prior to the announced operation, Putin declared on Feb. 21 that Russia recognizes two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, Donetsk, and Luhansk, as being independent. He also said that the Minsk agreement between Ukraine and Russia “no longer exists.” By Feb. 23, Russia announced that leaders of Donetsk and Luhansk sent letters to Putin asking for help amid “threats from Kyiv.”
Donetsk and Luhansk, located in the mining area of Donbass, declared independence from Ukraine in April 2014. The move was in response to a coup in February 2014, when anti-Moscow, pro-EU factions overthrew then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s government.
After the breakaway, the Ukrainian military was deployed to fight the rebels in the Donbass, resulting in heavy shelling and skirmishes. More than 10,000 civilians have died since the fighting began. Ukraine accused Russia of being responsible for the escalation of the conflict but Moscow has denied any involvement.
In September 2014, Ukraine and the breakaway regions held extensive talks in Minsk, Belarus, and agreed to Minsk I, a 12-point ceasefire deal. But the deal fell apart with violations by both sides.
In February 2015, Russia, Ukraine, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk breakaway regions signed Minsk II, a 13-point ceasefire deal. While heavy fighting subsided, it never completely ceased.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times