A relief worker has said he will continue his life-saving work in Ukraine despite appearing on a list of suspected British mercenaries.
Harley Whitehead’s name appears along with 100 others on the document, which has been shared on a pro-Russian Telegram channel.
Harley, 32, told Metro.co.uk that he has supported the Ukrainian military and Western contractors, but only in a civilian capacity.
He said he was ‘surprised but not surprised’ to see his name on the list, which allegedly shows British combatants fighting for Ukrainian forces, and he had no idea how or why it was included.
However, the volunteer said that his work through the EastLancs4Ukraine group has involved support for Ukrainian troops and private Western operators, mainly through the supply of medical equipment.
His name appears on the list of 99 men and a woman who is said by the channel to be part of the ‘International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine’.
Harley told Metro.co.uk: ‘It’s a bit of a crazy one. I’m surprised, but also in a way I’m not surprised.
‘A few things fit in place now, for I have been pulled by the Special Branch a few times since I have been on my way back from Ukraine.
‘I have worked with the military, but not in a logistical role, I have been there as a civilian. We have been involved in supplying medical equipment to the military and helping to evacuate people, which has included collaborating with private Western contractors.
‘I know people from the International Legion, the Georgian Legion and the Azov Brigade, but I still know many people in Ukraine from many years of traveling around the country.
‘This list seems to be pro-Russian propaganda, and that’s exactly what you would expect from them. My boyfriend is originally from Donetsk and we know we should not trust their version of the world. ‘
The Telegram channel, which supports Vladimir Putin, suggested that the list be obtained through the offices of the governor of the southern Mykolaiv region, Vitaly Kim. It has not been verified.
Harley, from Blackburn, Lancashire, said it would not stop his relief work to appear on the document, which gives the names, dates of birth and ID numbers of those listed. He divides his time between Ukraine and Britain, and since the invasion began nine weeks ago, he has driven thousands of miles of road delivering important supplies on round-trip travel to the war zone.
The photographer returned home two days ago from his most recent trip, which involved the delivery of 14 armored ambulances from across the border into Medyka, southeastern Poland.
His work with his friend, Steven Dickinson, has meant that he has witnessed the consequences of the horrors inflicted on civilians in places, including Bucha, which have become synonymous with the atrocities allegedly perpetrated by Russian forces and their agents.
The relief worker was in the city north of Kiev, the day after Moscow’s troops withdrew after fierce resistance from Ukrainian forces during a stalled attempt to capture the capital.
“It was awful,” Harley said. “There were corpses everywhere and they had left mines and traps.
‘They had literally massacred and murdered everyone on purpose. Before the war I had nothing against Russia and I had to go there to work next year, I was looking forward to it.
‘But after what I’ve seen, and now that I’re on the list, I do not want to go. There are some more armored ambulances left, so we will concentrate on that, but we are only the tip of the iceberg of the help that is needed in Ukraine. ‘
The list does not include Scott Sibley, who was named the first British citizen killed in Ukraine yesterday. Another British citizen, who has not been identified, remains missing, the Foreign Office said.
The document also does not mention British nationals Aiden Aislin and Shaun Pinner, who were paraded on Russian television earlier this month after being captured in the southern city of Mariupol.
Harley will resume its work in Medyka, an important gateway for refugees fleeing Ukraine, in the coming days. He has made more than 30 trips by road since February 24, when his group was based in a village in western Ukraine.
The dangers were further underscored today with two British aid workers reported to have been captured by Russian forces in southern Ukraine.
“It’s hard work on the aid side, and I do not want anyone to put themselves in the firing line,” Harley said.
‘If you spend too much time out there, you’ll be burned out.
‘You make guys go over there who are dreamers and they become a risk to themselves and a drain to the British government. I want to ask everyone to think twice before taking the trip. ‘
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