British man walks 300km to fight in Ukraine after Putin’s forces kill friend

Marcus Smith has pledged his allegiance to Ukraine in the war against Russia (Picture: Supplied)

A British volunteer walked more than 300 kilometres to fight for Ukraine after a close friend serving in the country’s military was killed by Russian forces. 

Marcus Smith had been in Spain learning the country’s language when he received the devastating news that the soldier had died in a drone strike.  

The 32-year-old cut his long curly hair and flew from Barcelona to Budapest before spending eight days walking to the Ukrainian border after his money ran out.  

The recruit, from Manchester, was then helped by a Ukrainian border guard to cross by train from Záhony in Hungary to the city of Chop in the western Zakarpattia Oblast. 

He told ‘I had a really close friend out here in Ukraine.

‘We used to play video games, hang out online a lot and always talk.

‘He used to tell me about his family. His mother rang me and told me about the drone attack, it made me very angry.’

Marcus with his comrade in Ukraine
British volunteer Marcus Smith with a comrade in Ukraine (Picture: Supplied)

Marcus, who was born in Blackburn, is currently in Uzhhorod, a city in western Ukraine, where he has enlisted and is undergoing military training so he can take arms against Vladimir Putin’s invasion forces.

‘I’m going to join the military indefinitely,’ he said.  

‘I’m looking for a lifelong career. I believe that it would be more beneficial for me to put my heart, mind and soul into something I am very passionate about. I’m disgusted by what I’m hearing about this war, so I’m doing my best to train, be the best of the best, and hopefully we can end this war.’ 

Marcus in Budapest
Marcus Smith in Budapest on his way to enlist in Ukraine (Picture: Supplied)

The Mancunian said he is a professional hunter who has experience of living in mountains and surviving difficult conditions.

Between the ages of 14 and 17 he gained some military experience at a boarding school in the UK. The volunteer described himself as having no family but regarding his friends as his family. 

‘I believe the skills I have will be useful in this war,’ he said.  

‘I served in the cadets, which was a medical corps, and I was trained with assault rifles and received basic medical training provided by the British government. I’ve been trained with basic weapons in England and have earned a marksmanship badge.

‘I’m very proficient with some of these firearms.

‘Depending on where my talents are needed, I’m prepared to take on any position in the army.’ 

Marcus on his flight from Barcelona to Budapest
The British volunteer on his flight from Barcelona to Budapest (Picture: Supplied)

The would-be legionnaire believes that stopping Russian aggression in Ukraine is a matter of critical importance for the free world.  

‘I grew up with stories about the devastation caused by World War One and World War Two in my country,’ he said.  

‘It affects people, especially children.

‘I would like to live in a world where we are all at peace, but sadly, that is not the case at the moment, and there are conflicts happening on our planet that I would love to stop.’ 

Marcus plans to join the Special Operations Forces of Ukraine or the International Legion after medical checks and a training programme.  

Marcus looks at home on a trek in Scotland (Picture: Supplied)
Marcus looks at home on a trek in Scotland (Picture: Supplied)

His story was first revealed on Facebook by the Zakarpattia enlistment office, which said his 300km trek from Hungary had taken eight days, six hours, 36 minutes and 14 seconds.  

‘I’ve just had my blood taken, my weight checked and a chest X-ray,’ Marcus told

‘The doctors and nurses said that I’m in perfect condition, so the choice will be mine regarding which unit to select.

‘I am going to apply for the special forces, and if I don’t get through, I will then join the International Legion.’

VOVCHANSK, UKRAINE - MAY 20: (EDITOR'S NOTE: No new use of feed image after 20 June, 2024. After that date, image will need to be licensed from the website.)Ukrainian soldiers strategize on safe driving routes as the assault brigade defend the frontline in the Ukrainian boarder city of Vovchansk, in Chuhuiv Raion, Kharkiv Oblast, which is bombarded daily by heavy artillery on May 20, 2024 in Vovchansk, Ukraine. In recent days, Russian forces have gained ground in the Kharkiv region, an area that Ukraine had largely reclaimed in the months following Russia's initial large-scale invasion in February 2022.(Photo by Kostiantyn Liberov/Libkos/Getty Images)
Ukrainian soldiers engaged in the defence of the city of Vovchansk in Kharkiv Oblast (Picture: Kostiantyn Liberov/Libkos/Getty)
DONETSK OBLAST, UKRAINE - APRIL 01: Ukrainian servicemen fire an artillery in the direction of Siversk, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on April 01, 2024. (Photo by Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Ukrainian servicemen fire an artillery round in the eastern Donetsk Oblast (Picture: Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu via Getty Images)

British citizens who travel to Ukraine to fight could be prosecuted when they return, according to UK government travel advice.

The stance contrasts with the backing given by Liz Truss to those wanting to take up arms with the embattled nation when she was foreign secretary, although she later distanced herself from the comments.

Guidance from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office states that ‘British nationals fighting in Ukraine have been killed or captured’. 

A number of UK nationals have become casualties or prisoners of war, including Aiden Aislen, who was sentenced to death after being captured while fighting for the Ukrainian marines in the siege of Mariupol.  

Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office has established the International Legion for foreign recruits, although others, including Brits, have joined various units in Kyiv’s military structure, including the Georgian National Legion. 

Marcus in Uzhhorod
Marcus in military uniform in the Ukrainian city of Uzhhorod (Picture: Supplied)

Around 20,000 foreigners were reported to have poured in to Ukraine to take up arms for the country in the months after Putin launched the unprovoked full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Numbers are thought to have declined since but an unknown quota of British nationals are understood to be in frontline combat roles away from the media glare which accompanied recruits at the start of the war.  

Marcus insisted that he is in for the long haul. 

‘I am joining the Ukrainian army indefinitely, and I never plan on leaving,’ he said. ‘I have so much respect for all the Ukrainian people who are sadly affected by this war, and I will fight for their freedom.’ 

The volunteer spoke as Russian forces continued their brutal ground and air offensive in the northern Kharkiv Oblast.  

The UK Ministry of Defence said that Putin has ‘currently not succeeded’ in his stated aim of creating a ‘buffer zone’ in the border region.  

The intelligence update on X stated: ‘Russia’s gains in this axis will be limited in the coming week, as Russia’s initial momentum has been contained by Ukrainian resistance.’ 

The Institute for the Study of War said Russia is ‘reportedly concentrating forces of unspecified size’ in the western Belgorod Oblast, across the border from the city of Sumy.

The US think-tank said the likely aim was to ‘fix and draw’ Kyiv’s forces and prepare for ‘offensive operations’ aiming to expand Moscow’s footprint in the north-eastern border region of Ukraine.  

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