A British father, Ben Spann, 36 who went to Ukraine to help the country fight against Russia has ran back home.
He fled back to the UK after becoming worried he had joined a ‘suicide mission’ after he got ‘some real grief’ from his wife and son, 16, for travelling to the war zone.
According to Dailymail, Spann, from Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, went to Ukraine because he ‘thought it was the right thing to do’ despite having no military experience or connections to the country.
He spent five days in a safe house in western Ukraine with four former British soldiers before deciding it was an ‘absolute nightmare’ and fleeing back to the UK.
But Spann, who founded the charity Change Your Life Put Down Your Knife, told Sky News he now ‘regrets’ leaving Ukraine and the older soldiers because ‘I feel like I let them down a little bit’.
However, he recommended that other ‘non-military people’ not to travel to Ukraine because they ‘can be more of a burden’.
Spann did not tell his family he was travelling to fight against Russia, telling them instead that he planned to help refugees in Poland.
He flew from Stansted to Szczecin, Poland, took a coach to the Ukrainian border and then walked into Kyiv’s territory with four ex-British soldiers he had met on the journey.
He arrived in the middle of the night, in -6C conditions, and pitched up in a safe house with several other volunteers, Spann said.
The ‘tiny’ accommodation had no beds or running water and was ‘a bit of a shock’ because it was ‘like walking into a crack den in England’.
Spann and his new friends waited at the safe house for three days for a transport to bring them weapons, but it never came.
Instead the group were greeted by a 10-strong Ukrainian SWAT team who were suspicious of their motives because none of them had joined the foreign legion – an official group of mercenaries invited by President Zelensky to help fight Russia.
Spann and the other volunteers were held hostage ‘with AK-47s pointed at our heads for 20-30 minutes, with our hands on our heads’ while the Ukrainian team searched the safe house.
But the ‘whole atmosphere changed’ when the Ukrainian soldiers realised the Brits were there to join the fight against Russia.
Tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries travelled to Ukraine after Kyiv’s Defence Ministry put out a call for international volunteers in a Facebook post in the first week of the war.
‘JOIN THE INTERNATIONAL LEGION OF TERRITORIAL DEFENSE FORCES OF UKRAINE!.’ it said. ‘If your citizenship other than Ukrainian, but you are standing with Ukraine against Russian invasion. If praying is not enough for you.
‘If you want actively participate in fighting for European freedom and democracy. If you have combat experience or want to gain it standing with brave Ukrainian defenders. THIS IS TIME TO ACT!’
The next day Spann’s group were taken to a weapons base. On the way, the group were treated to a grisly display of two dead Russian soldiers ‘propped up, sat upright with their hats over their faces’ at a checkpoint, Spann said.
He described the sight as a ‘warning to the Russians’ and made him ‘realise that things are getting real’ because these men ‘were prepared to go and fight and basically die together’.
But the group did not get hold of any weapons and were returned to the safe house, making Spann doubt the reasons he had travelled to Ukraine.
At this point, he said, he ‘was getting some real grief off my wife and my son… my son was doubting whether I even cared about him, why I was doing this – same with my wife.’
It was a turning point for Spann who left the former soldiers who had decided to travel further into Ukraine and started his journey home.
He said the border crossing ‘reminded me of a cattle market’ and said ‘the tension was high’ with people ‘pushing and shoving… kids screaming and crying’.
‘It was snowing. It was cold. My feet were like ice… People had been there for hours and just wanted to get across.’
Once over the border, Spann stayed in a refugee centre in Lublin, Poland, before flying back to the UK, where he faced the wrath of his ‘pretty p***** off’ wife who then threatened to kick him out.
Spann told Sky News he has patched things up with his wife and son who ‘never went through the anger process’ and was just ‘happy and glad I was back out of there’.
It comes a day after it was revealed Russia deliberately blew up foreign fighters and arms shipments at a Ukrainian base close to the Polish border on Sunday.
Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for Russia’s ministry of defence, said the base at Yavoriv – 12 miles from NATO territory – was struck by ‘long-range, high-precision’ weapons because it was hosting ‘foreign mercenaries and a large shipment of foreign weapons’.
He added: ‘The destruction of foreign mercenaries who arrived on the territory of Ukraine will continue.’
Konashenkov said up to 180 people had been killed in the strike, though Ukraine says 35 people died and another 134 were wounded.
Bombs fell on the base early Sunday morning, with witnesses saying many of the foreign recruits were sleeping when the strike was carried out. Foreigners are thought to be among the victims.
British military veterans at the base who survived the attack, described hearing the sound of incoming engines before several large blasts destroyed one building, damaged another, and sprayed shell fragments through the air. It is thought the base was hit by Russian cruise missiles as opposed to fighter jets.