Another American dies in combat as part of Ukraine’s international legion

<span>Photograph: Sergey Kozlov/EPA</span>
Photograph: Sergey Kozlov/EPA

Another American volunteer has died in combat in Ukraine, a spokesperson for the country’s International Legion confirmed on Monday, bringing the number of US fighters killed in the war against Russia to at least six.

Timothy Griffin, from New York state, had been fighting alongside Ukrainians as part of their counteroffensive on the eastern front when his unit came under attack. The legion’s spokesperson, identified as “Mockingjay” to NBC News, said that Griffin was “killed in action”.

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“We are in contact with the family and the International Legion, and the armed forces of Ukraine are handling the repatriation process, in coordination with the family, following their wishes and instructions,” the spokesperson said.

Details of Griffin’s Ukrainian volunteer history are scarce, but people with knowledge of his death told NBC he had been fighting in the Kharkiv region.

The US state department said it was “aware of these unconfirmed reports” of an American citizen killed in Ukraine but had no further comment “due to privacy considerations”.

“We once again reiterate our message that US citizens should not travel to Ukraine due to the active armed conflict,” a state department spokeswoman said. “US citizens in Ukraine should depart immediately if it is safe to do so using any commercial or other privately available ground transportation options.”

Ukraine’s International Legion of Territorial Defense was established in February for “friends of peace and democracy” to fight for the country. Ukraine’s foreign minister has said that around 20,000 foreign fighters have expressed interest in joining up.

In March, the Pentagon spokesperson, John Kirby, urged Americans to stay home despite Ukraine’s pleas for help. The US has instead preferred to send billions of dollars in training and equipment to Ukraine as it seeks to repel Russia’s invasion.

“If you’re an American and you want to do right by Ukraine, the best thing you can do is find a way to donate to so many agencies that are trying to deal with what is now clearly a humanitarian crisis in the region, and certainly there in Ukraine,” Kirby said. “We still do not believe that Ukraine is a safe place for Americans to go.”

Ukrainian officials told the Military Times they were looking for foreign volunteers with combat experience who require little training before being armed and sent to the frontline. Officials said no volunteers would be allowed to bring their own weapons, and those fighting would at least be issued with rifles.

Griffin’s killing while fighting for Ukraine follows that of Willy Cancel, 22, in April. The following month Stephen Zabielski, 52, of Hernando, Florida, was also killed in the service of Ukraine.

Over the summer, Bryan Young and Luke Lucyszyn also died fighting Russia in Ukraine. And last week, the body of 24-year-old Joshua Jones was returned by Russia to Ukrainian custody.

It has also been confirmed that 23-year-old Skyler James Greggs from Washington state died in north-eastern Ukraine while with the International Legion.