Ukrainians abroad have returned home in huge numbers to fight since Russia invaded, says border service

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More than 320,000 Ukrainians have returned home since Russian forces invaded on Feb. 24, the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine said Thursday. 

“Our guys do not give up, so we need to help, we need to fight for our country,” the border service tweeted. “Ukraine must be free, like all people.” 

In Poland alone, border guards have counted more than 195,000 crossings of people into Ukraine, 80% of whom were Ukrainian nationals, though some people may have been counted twice, a Polish Border Guard spokesperson said this week. 

The Czech Republic, which does not border Ukraine but hosts some 200,000 Ukrainian workers, said in the early days of the war that it will support Ukrainian families living in the country whose men decide to return to their homeland to fight. 

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy touted the “strong support for the Armed Forces by all the people of Ukraine” and the “mass joining [of] the territorial defense” in a speech on Monday. 

Men between the ages of 18 and 60 were banned from leaving Ukraine after Russia invaded on Feb. 24. Many of them helped their families escape through neighboring countries before returning to fight. 

At least 16,000 foreign fighters have also traveled from around the world to join the Ukrainian resistance. 

“As Americans, we take on the big bullies,” former Marine Dennis Diaz, who lives in New York and is traveling to Ukraine to help in the fight, told Fox News last week. “And right now, Russia is the big bully. And we’re going to go out there and we’re going to help Ukraine.”

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While many Ukrainians have traveled home to fight, more than 3.1 million have fled and are seeking refuge in neighboring countries. Nearly two million have crossed the border into Poland, while the rest have gone to Romania, Hungary, Moldova, and other countries. 

Russia amassed up to 190,000 troops on the border of Ukraine before it invaded on Feb. 24 and had already sent nearly 100% of its combat forces into the country by last week, defense department officials said. 

With an estimated 7,000 Russian soldiers already dead in the first three weeks, there are indications that morale is “flagging,” a U.S. defense official told reporters Thursday. 

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“We certainly have picked up anecdotal indications that morale is not high in some units,” the official said. “Some of that is, we believe, a function of poor leadership, lack of information that the troops are getting about their mission and objectives, and I think disillusionment from being resisted as fiercely as they have been.” 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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