France Angrily Denies Russian Claim Of Mercenaries In Ukraine

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, Jan 20, 2024 - 12:35 PM

France has rejected Russian defense ministry statements saying that a missile strike on Kharkiv took out a unit of French mercenaries earlier this week. Russia's military claimed that "several dozen Frenchmen" were killed in the Tuesday night strike.

"France has no mercenaries, neither in Ukraine nor elsewhere, unlike certain others," France’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs responded on Thursday. This is after Russia also summoned France's ambassador to Moscow, Pierre Levy, to its foreign ministry demanding an explanation of the foreign fighters' presence in the conflict zone.

Aftermath of Tuesday's missile strikes on Kharkiv, via AFP

The French government statement continued, "France helps Ukraine with supplies of military material and military training, in full compliance with international law, in order to help Ukraine in its fight to defend its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity."

This flatly contradicts the Russian Defense Ministry's initial statement, which said: "On the evening of 16 January, the armed forces of the Russian Federation carried out a precision strike on a temporary deployment point of foreign militants in the city of Kharkiv, the core of which were French mercenaries."

Ukraine acknowledged large-scale destruction in the ballistic missile attack on Kharkiv, but there was no mention of foreign troops being hit. And yet Moscow said a lot were killed: "More than 60 fighters were killed, and more than 20 were taken to medical facilities," the MoD claimed. Of course, if it did happen, neither Kiev nor Paris would want it known.

Regardless of the particular claims and counter-claims in the Kharkiv attack, the reality over the past nearly two years of war has been that Western mercenaries had flooded Ukraine in the early months of the war. It has been especially US and UK mercenaries and volunteers showing up in footage and photos on the battlefield, in some cases being confirmed killed or wounded.

It is indeed very likely that France also has an abundance of volunteers and security contractors on the ground, also given it has an entire famous French Foreign Legion which typically gets deployed to proxy wars like this (albeit often covertly). 

French ambassador was grilled by Russian media when seen leaving the foreign ministry in Moscow...

Despite the firm denial out of Paris, Russia is still pursuing the issue, with Reuters reporting Friday, "The lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, plans to formally ask France's National Assembly if it is aware that French mercenaries have been fighting on Ukraine's side, the Duma's chairman said on Friday."

As for the attack, Ukrainian sources did cite that "17 people were injured, including two critically, after Russia used S-300 missiles in two strikes on Kharkiv overnight on Jan. 16," according to a statement of oblast governor Oleh Synehubov on Telegram. Over a dozen of the wounded remain hospitalized. Follow-up reporting indicated at least one death, and about 20 buildings destroyed or badly damaged in the attack.