Pierre-Henri Aubry, corps commander of the 13th DBLE talks about the situation of his troops.
How do you see the current situation with your troops?
In the regiment, I do not consider that there are communities from Eastern countries. The people are legionnaires. They are in contract with the legion, they freely chose to put themselves at the service of France.
It is up to me to enforce the Legionnaire’s code of honor and the rules of the Foreign Legion. They are not asked to renounce their nationality and their culture, but they serve France. The particularisms must be erased behind that.
“You cannot force a legionnaire to fight against his country of origin“
Some of the legionnaires must nevertheless be affected by the situation…
Absolutely, we try to be attentive to that. It’s something we have experienced. Today all eyes are on Ukraine and it is legitimate, but we must not forget that other countries are at war. We also think of the legionnaires who are Malians, Burkinabés, Syrians or Iraqis. We are attentive.
The legionnaires of Russian origin are as affected as the Ukrainians. Let’s not forget the complexity of the world, among the legionnaires, there are Russian-Ukrainians, Ukrainian-Russians, Franco-Russians, etc. The situation is not as binary as one might imagine.
Have you had requests from your men to go and help in their country of origin?
Yes. There is a rule in the Legion: you don’t force a legionnaire to fight against his country. The question does not yet arise because, as the President of the Republic said, we are not at war with Russia. Legitimately, one can understand that a young man who knows how to fight, who sees his country in danger, can be tempted to join it and be alongside his compatriots.
We had quite a few direct requests. The opinions of each other are more complex and contrasting than one wants to hear. We left the possibility to the Ukrainian legionnaires or of Ukrainian origin, to go to look for their family. The general who commands the Foreign Legion gave them 15 days of leave, which allows them to go to a border and organize themselves to recover a family in danger.
Do you have legionnaires who left the army to fight for their country?
To my knowledge, as we speak, I have two legionnaires on irregular absence who, perhaps, have gone to fight in Ukraine. I have no certainties. They are quite discreet in this kind of situation. At this stage, these are irregular absences, which we obviously regret but which we can understand, if this is the case. Today, legionnaires have a contract and are considered French soldiers.
Do you have men ready to intervene in Ukraine if the situation changes?
If the regiment must be oriented towards another operation, I am obviously ready, on orders and without any qualms, to participate in the operations that would be assigned to us.