A Chinese dissident has joined a large group of international volunteers from 56 countries fighting for Ukraine amid the Russian invasion.
Yi Qiwei, a 26-year-old “third-generation red” who comes from a line of communist elites, enlisted in the International Legion for the Defense of Ukraine, also known as the Ukrainian International Legion, on March 10.
He enlisted just days after arriving at a refugee camp in the Polish border town of Medyka on March 7, then left for Kyiv on March 14.
Yi, also known as Wu Dizhao, and nine of his friends were reportedly in the Netherlands when Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Yi and his friends decided to lend a helping hand by driving to Medyka and giving the refugees clothes, food and supplies.
“You could see that those people were very helpless,” Yi said. “There was no place for the children to sleep, it was super cold. They had no food at all and they were very helpless. Most of them can’t speak English or Polish. Many children are the same age as my daughter, which makes me sad. We provide them with food and water as much as possible.”
Yi, a U.S. national born in China, also assisted some of the refugees financially. He reportedly helped them stay in hotels since Poland does not accept their Ukrainian currency and cards.
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A descendant of a Manchu royal bannerman, Yi was reportedly born to be a successor to his maternal grandfather, who was a high-ranking official in the Chinese Community Party (CCP). He was dubbed by Chinese media as “China’s most talented young writer” after publishing his first novel, “Redemption,” in 2011 when he was just 14 years old.
Yi became a vocal dissident of the CCP following the death of his father, a former state-run banking executive, in 2016. Yi claimed that his father was jailed during President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on corruption.
The volunteer fighter believes that Chinese propaganda supporting Russia promotes the idea that “national interests are above everything else.”
“If this happened to them, they would not say such things,” Yi said, referring to Chinese who support Russia. “There is no so-called ‘national interest.’ What the people want is very simple — to live in peace and stability.”
“The people can only develop the country’s economy if they are alive,” he added. “If you talk about those slogans with disregard of people’s lives, who would still follow you?”
The Ukrainian International Legion consists of foreign volunteers coming from more than 52 different countries, including Japan, Canada, the United States and countries from the United Kingdom and the European Union. The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine estimated that there are over 20,000 volunteers in the military branch. Around 180 foreign soldiers were reportedly killed during missile attacks on Ukrainian training centers in the village of Starichi and at the Yavorovsky military training ground on March 13, according to Russian Defense Ministry representative Major General Igor Konashenkov.
“At these facilities, the Kyiv regime deployed: A point for the training and combat coordination of foreign mercenaries before being sent to the areas of hostilities against Russian military personnel, as well as a storage base for weapons and military equipment coming from foreign countries,” Konashenkov said.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed gratitude to Japan for supporting the Eastern European country. He also urged Tokyo to apply “more pressure on Russia to help restore peace” during a video address to the National Diet on Wednesday.