Ukraine War: The British who joined the controversial Azov Regiment prepared to spend a year fighting the Russian invasion

A British man who joined a controversial Ukrainian military unit says he is willing to spend the next year defending himself against Russia’s invasion, and has not been deterred by the capture of other Britons.

Mark Ayres has spent the last two months in Ukraine after joining the Azov Regiment, which has far-right origins, insisting that he has challenged some members for their beliefs, and that the ones he has met are not “monsters and psychopaths”.

The 47-year-old British Army veteran, who has a teenage son in the UK, he first spoke to Sky News when he arrived in Ukraine in early March, despite having no ties to the country.

Since then, Ayres says he has helped the Azov Regiment defend the city of Bucha. where Russia is accused of committing war crimes with mass murder and torture, rape and murder of civilians.

Now he has been told that he must wait in kyiv to sign a contract with the Ukrainian army before taking part in any further military action, after Vladimir Putin’s troops captured several Britons.

Ayres, who previously traveled to Syria to join the battle against Islamic State, says he “has no problem” spending the next 18 months in Ukraine “until the fighting stops.”

He told Sky News: “I hope to come home, not in a body bag, everything intact.

“I have no problem with a year or a year and a half (in Ukraine).

“If (Putin’s) operation had gone as planned, Moldova would have been next and then they would have been watching other countries and then maybe putting pressure on NATO, who knows.”

Mark Ayres says he has spent the last two months in Ukraine
Ayres stays in kyiv while waiting to sign a contract with the Ukrainian army.

‘They are not monsters and psychopaths’

Ayres says he had reservations about joining the Azov Regiment, which originated as a far-right paramilitary unit and is now part of the Ukrainian National Guard.

The Kremlin has used the regiment’s record to justify its claim that Ukraine needed to “de-Nazify”.

However, in March, the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiywho is Jewish, awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine to a commander from Azov.

Use the Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Sky News first spoke to Mark Ayres in March when he arrived in Ukraine.

Mr Ayres told Sky News: “By accident I joined the Azov unit. That would have been my last choice of a unit to go to, but I am so glad I did.”

“They’re not the freaks and psychopaths I imagine neo-Nazis to be, I mean they’re not all like that.

“A lot of them are decent guys, just with stupid views.

“I tell my partner, ‘I don’t understand how you can say you’re a neo-Nazi when you’re a fucking decent guy, with decent morals.’ And he’s like, ‘Well, I’m not really…’

“It’s like they’re playing at it. They’re caught up in wanting to belong to something that traps them. It’s so stupid.”

Ayres said that one member of his company was a “Ukrainian Jew.”

“It’s probably some psychopaths in the battalion, but I haven’t come across any yet,” he added.

    Mark Ayres with soldier
Ayres says he was reluctant to join the Azov regiment, but is now “glad” he did.

“I don’t think they tortured me much or killed me”

Ayres said he is aware there is “a chance” he could be captured by Russian troops, but believes being British means he is more likely to be kept alive because he would be “quite valuable”.

He added: “I would probably be roughed up, interrogated and stuff like that, but I don’t think I was tortured much…or killed.”

Ayres said he personally knows Aiden Aslin, one of two British fighters captured by Russian forces in Ukraine – as they were both in Syria at the same time.

Shaun Pinner, left, and Aiden Aslin, right, before being captured by Russian forces.
Shaun Pinner (L) and Aiden Aslin (R) before being captured by Russian forces

Two UK aid workers have also been captured.while army veteran Scott Sibley was the first known British citizen to die in the Ukrainian war.

Ayres, who previously served in the Royal Green Jackets before being discharged after a robbery conviction, said joining military action in Ukraine was “like being a soldier again”.

“I’ve been to two operations (in Ukraine),” he said.

“With Bucha, we were on the right flank across the river holding positions while our left flank attacked and drove them off Bucha.

“It’s very heavy artillery. Big battles.

“I haven’t really seen any fighting, it’s just been artillery. Just getting crushed by artillery.”

He added, “When you’re really bombed, you could die any second, it just takes one shell to land on you.”

“I wouldn’t say I was afraid. You are aware of what can happen.”

Read more:
Briton who traveled to Ukraine to join military fight leaves fearing ‘suicide mission’
Briton who volunteered to fight Russia was turned down because he would be ‘a liability’

Mark Ayres has spent the last two months in the Ukraine serving with the Azov Battalion.
Ayres says he participated in an operation to help defend Bucha

‘A guy fired an anti-tank missile into his room’

Ayres, who is from London but lives in Bedford, said he believed his unit no longer wanted to accept Western volunteers with no military experience.

“They don’t want people to come in and then just train and equip themselves and then just go fuck themselves,” he added.

“I think there was a guy who fired an anti-tank missile in his bedroom and got screwed.

“Just trouble. They always cause trouble.”

The Foreign Office has warned that Britons traveling to Ukraine to fight could face prosecution on their return to the UK.

However, Ayres said those seeking prosecutions would “not have a leg to stand on” after the Remarks by Chancellor Liz Truss who backed the British who wanted to go to the Ukraine to fight.

Mark Ayres wearing a hat with the symbol of the Azov unit
Mr. Ayres photographed wearing a hat with the symbol of Azov unity

He said he had previously been arrested after returning from Syria three times, but faced no further action.

“I’m still focused on what’s going on here, but I don’t think there will be any repercussions,” Ayres added.

Ayres said he is now staying in an apartment block in kyiv while his unit has moved into eastern Ukraine to confront Russian troops.

“At the moment, it’s like before the war. Everyone is returning to kyiv now. Everything is working.”

“Before it was like a ghost town.”

She added that she manages to talk to her 16-year-old son once every two or three weeks.

Follow the daily podcast onapple Podcasts, google Podcasts, spotify,speaker

When asked how his son feels about his father joining the military in Ukraine, he replied: “He doesn’t really say.

“I only get one word answers from him… he’s that age.”

Leave a Comment