‘I’m prepared to die’ - Norfolk ex-soldier heading to Ukraine frontline

Former soldier Connor Darton

Former soldier Connor Darton from Norwich (inset) is set to travel to the frontline in Ukraine. - Credit: AP/Submitted

A former soldier from Norfolk preparing to head to Ukraine to fight against Vladimir Putin's invasion has said he is willing to die on the frontline.

Connor Darton, 30, from Norwich, is set to join dozens of former British soldiers volunteering to join the ranks of Ukrainian fighters to face the Russian invasion.

“I’m fully aware that this is potentially a one way ticket for me,” said the former Royal Anglian Regiment soldier, who served in Afghanistan.

Connor Darton in Afghanistan

Connor Darton served with Royal Anglian Regiment as an IED dog handler in Afghanistan. - Credit: Archant

“My motivation is fighting for the greater good. I have skills that I can deploy and combat experience.”

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has invited foreigners to form an international legion to save Ukraine. 

He has temporarily lifted the requirement for entry visas for any foreigner willing to join Ukraine's International Defence Legion and fight Putin's military invasion.

Mr Darton, who has two sons aged six and four, said he was part of a group of about 60 British veterans planning head to Ukraine in the coming week or so.

Men who want to fight in Ukraine walk to cross the border in Medyka, Poland, Tuesday, March 1, 2022.

Men who want to fight in Ukraine crossing the border at Medyka in Poland. - Credit: AP

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“The bottom line for me is I’m a soldier and ultimately there are war crimes being committed,” he said.

“Ukraine is receiving a lot of support, weapons and ammunition, but what they really need is experienced troops on the ground -  combat experienced lads that know what they are doing and know how to fight.

“I understand them arming civilians but that is a last stand kind of tactic and I think a lot of people are going to lose their lives. 

Andrey Goncharuk, 68, a member of territorial defense, walks in the backyard of a house damaged by a

Andrey Goncharuk, a member of Ukraine territorial defense, walks in the backyard of a house damaged by a Russian airstrike in Gorenka outside Kyiv. - Credit: AP

“They are patriotic people and they are fighting because it is their home and their land but you cannot put a price on combat experience.” 

Foreign secretary Liz Truss has previously said she would "absolutely" support British nationals who choose to go to Ukraine to help fight the invasion.

But defence secretary Ben Wallace urged Britons not to travel to join the fighting as he said the "very dangerous" situation could lead to them being killed.

A member of the civil defense takes a shooting position as a vehicle approaches the checkpoint in Go

A member of the civil defense takes a shooting position as a vehicle approaches the checkpoint in Gorenka, outside Kyiv, Ukraine. - Credit: AP

Those heading to Ukraine could also face prosecution.

Crown Prosecution Service guidance states that people travelling from the UK abroad to take part in the fighting “may be subject to the provisions of section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000”.

In 2014, the Crown Prosecution Service warned that Britons going to fight in the Syrian civil war could be charged with war crimes eventually.

Mr Darton said: “I understand that there are terrorism laws in place that may come back to bite me if I return. But being very careful about what I’m saying, I’m willing to support in any way necessary and utilise my expertise and skills.”

Local militiamen help an old woman crossing a bridge destroyed by artillery, as she tries to flee, o

Local militiamen help an old woman crossing a bridge destroyed by artillery, as she tries to flee, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine. - Credit: AP

He is currently sourcing equipment including helmets, body armour, tourniquets, and trauma medical kits and has received 47,600 messages after online appeals from people either offering kit or wanting to also head to Ukraine.

“It’s all a bit manic. We’re having to beg borrow and steal because there is a massive shortage of any sort of ballistic kit,” said Mr Darton.

“That’s the biggest problem we’re facing because we don’t want guys deploying out there with no armour at all. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has invited foreigners to form an international legion to fight in Ukraine. - Credit: AP

“We have instructions where to go when we head out there, we have contacts on the border and then it is onwards from there.” 

Oleksander Biletsky, a Ukrainian foreign ministry adviser who came up with the idea for the international legion, has said weapons, including anti-tank systems and rifles, were being distributed to anyone who wanted to fight.

Mr Darton, who grew up in Great Yarmouth and attended Flegg High School before joining the Royal Anglian Regiment, served as one of the youngest dog handlers scouting out Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan.

Royal Anglian Regiment soldier Connor Darton in Afghanistan

Royal Anglian Regiment soldier Connor Darton in Afghanistan where he was injured in an explosion while serving as a IED dog handler. - Credit: Submitted

He suffered injuries after an explosion in 2012 in Helmand province and was medically discharged. Since leaving the army he has worked as a security dog handler.

He said his family were supportive of his plans. 

“I have two young sons but I’m a single lad. My sister is supportive like she was when I went to Afghanistan. We don’t need to have a conversation. She understands why I feel the way that I feel.”