The Soufan Center is pleased to share a new Special Report, “Foreign Fighters, Volunteers, and Mercenaries: Non-State Actors and Narratives in Ukraine.” This report examines the various non-state actors in Ukraine, while contending with great power competition, varied narratives, and rampant disinformation—even as evidence of atrocities mount. States will need to consider the myriad implications of their citizens traveling to the conflict zone and the range of issues they must be prepared to manage upon their return, as well as longer term implications should the conflict morph into an insurgency and create favorable conditions for the trafficking of arms and goods, including small arms and light weapons (SALW). The report further highlights the complicating role of disinformation, especially the nexus between state-backed campaigns and extremist messaging.

The report offers policy recommendations to governments, including:

  • Clarify the legal framework governing foreign fighters and prepare for potential needs and challenges upon their return;
  • Consider designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism;
  • Strengthen international cooperation to counter disinformation, hate speech, and incitement online;
  • Strengthen inter-agency cooperation to counter disinformation from foreign adversaries, both within states and through international partnerships;
  • Ensure effective implementation of existing international instruments to inhibit transnational organized crime networks and others from exploiting the illicit movement of small arms and light weapons, and strengthen upstream measures aimed at preventing illicit acquisition of small arms and light weapons; and
  • Provide vetted or screened channels for communities to give direct support to Ukraine and ensure that funds

Full text Foreign Fighters, Volunteers, and Mercenaries: Non-State Actors and Narratives in Ukraine – The Soufan Center