The claim that 13,372 foreigners fought for the LDNR sounds like a lot, considering that the NAF numbers ~40k troops and that not more than 10% of them were ever Russian citizens even in the early days. But considering this refers to the numbers that have ever participated in the conflict, i.e. that have since been rotated out, then it’s quite plausible.
Many more foreigners fought for the LDNR than in Ukraine’s volunteer battalions. However, the ratio diminished to 1:1.5 when excluding Russians, and would probably drop to parity if all ethnic Russians were to be excluded.
One can subdivide countries into the following bins (major contributors that provided >50 fighters in total are bolded):
Strongly Russophile: Russia; France, Germany, Spain; Central Asia, Armenia, Moldova; Bulgaria, Czechia, Greece, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia; Latin America.
50/50: Australia, Israel, United States; Baltics (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania); Finland, Poland.
Russophobe: Austria, Canada, Italy, United Kingdom.
Strongly Russophobe: Scandis (Denmark, Norway, Sweden); Azerbaijan, Georgia; Albania, Croatia, Romania; Turkey.
This seems like a pretty good proxy of national geopolitical attitudes towards Russia in general, and amongst their nationalists in specific, e.g. see how neatly Serbia/Croatia and Armenia/Azerbaijan recreate their own wars. However, the Far Left has also taken an active part in the fighting, almost invariably on the side of the NAF – if with overall lesser enthusiasm than nationalists on either side (Rojava is the true mecca for anarchist types).
- A surprising number of countries are strongly loaded in one direction or another. I suspect that this is on account of networks effects, e.g. an influential member in a nationalist organization in one country announces he is setting out to join Azov and/or NAF, and a bunch of people follow him, with said national organization perhaps providing some funding, contacts, etc.; otherwise, potential participants are limited to a trickle of individual volunteers.
- 20% of Russians participants fought for Ukraine. These were overwhelmingly the Neo-Nazi and White Nationalist component of Russian nationalists, as well as Chechens and Georgians. Their fates have tended to be quite sad, having generally been tossed aside by the Ukraine (e.g. had problems getting residency permits) with return to a Russian jail not particularly attractive either.
- The amount of Belorussian zmagars who supported their svidomy brothers is faintly concerning. That said, I assume those sorts of people are just naturally more passionary. For instance, well less than 20% of Russians support the Ukraine in the Donbass conflict.
- The Balts should be close to 100% anti-Russian (some Latvians even fought in Chechnya). However, the ~20% of their population that is Russian would have fought for the Donbass. Hence 50/50, which I suspect neatly divided by national lines. There is also the colorful and intensely memetic Russian-Ugandan Benes Ayo, a National Bolshevik from Latvia who has fought in the NAF.
- I imagine that almost everyone from Central Asia would have been ethnic Russians, though I recall seeing the token Kyrgyz and Uzbek (they were invariably on the LDNR side).
- As I expected, the United States is neatly divided; perhaps the two most famous American fighters are Mark Gregory Paslawsky (Donbas Battalion, KIA in 2014) and the memey “cowboy” Texas (NAF). Also expected is that the Scandinavians are overwhelmingly anti-Russian, around 50 of them having fought for the Ukraine and just two Norwegians for the Donbass. Curiously, though, Finland is 50/50.
- The 1:10 ratio in Germany is surely largely explained by Russian Volga Germans.
- Italy and Austria are surprisingly pro-Ukrainian, which beliefs their geopolitical orientation (relative to the rest of Western Europe). The Neo-Nazi cell with air-to-air missiles apprehended in an Italian police raid had fought for the Ukraine, contra initial Western MSM reports. These are also countries where nationalist movements were strongly infiltrated by the CIA (see Operation Gladio), which might also help explain things. Another possibility is that many of the Italians are naturalized Ukrainians – there are more of them in Italy than in any other West European country bar Germany, which only beats out by a thin margin.
- The Spaniards and Latin Americans are as monolithically pro-Russian as the Scandinavians are pro-Ukrainian. Legacy of dashing role models like Che Guevara for local leftists? The most famous participant here is the Brazilian Rafael Lusvarghi, who acquired fame by charging into battle without protective equipment. He later returned to the Ukraine as a civilian, to be predictably arrested and imprisoned.
- France is strongly pro-Russian, which I suppose largely reflects the views of French identitarians, who are implicitly anti-Atlanticist.
- While Poland’s 50/50 split might be surprising to some, why should it be? While Poles are happy to express support for the Euromaidan – the Ukraine serving as a buffer between them and Russia is very much in their interests – they are not going to be out there spilling their own blood for Banderites, at least out of their free will.
PS. Twitter user writes that he knows at least three Azeris who fought for the DNR. So, word of caution that these estimates are far from completely waterproof.
* They’ve also done estimates for Syria.