Nothing preposterous about our Foreign Legion story

As Asia Times has noted in updated versions of a Stephen Bryen article that appears on our home page, France denied Russian non-governmental reports of a French Foreign Legion deployment to Ukraine – and the Associated Press put out a “fake news alert.” We remain unpersuaded that the basic report of legionnaires sent to Ukraine is wrong.

Stephen Bryen is a seasoned professional who has provided some of the best Ukraine War coverage. Many of his articles have been published by Asia Times directly or, as in this case, have been republished with kind permission from his Substack blog. When the Russian-sourced report on the legionnaires that he conveyed was first questioned publicly, he acknowledged that it could turn out to be wrong – indeed, he hoped so, in the interest of avoiding a wider war. Whether the Russian sources got it right or got it wrong, the Bryen article itself certainly does not qualify as deliberate, ill-intentioned “fake news.”

As the author himself explained further in a follow-up regarding sources that he posted on his Substacks, there were signals. His original story cited Russian mil-bloggers. There’s a substantial group of such people, who compete to provide detailed accounts of military matters. The Russian mil-bloggers are a source that he has found useful in assessing what’s happening in Ukraine – if much less useful for learning what’s happening inside Russia and its military, on account of Kremlin constraints on what Russian citizens are permitted to reveal.

The mil-blogger information fit in with what was already public about French President Macron’s Ukraine policies and with what we have heard from other sources.

As for editing by Asia Times, after contact with the author we updated the story on our site twice upon being alerted to issues, adding a link to the author’s newer Substack article on sourcing. An embedded hyperlink to a Russian source had broken following initial republication and we replaced it with new links to that and another Russian mil-blogger site. Updates to the headline included dropping the term “combat” in view of the details found in a newly published Russian Pravda article, a detailed piece describing the French legionnaires as working in the rear.

Stephen Bryen, responding with approval to our updates, told us: “The article is being widely discussed.” He added that a correspondent for a London daily “told me that he thinks the French denials are not so credible. In any case I am sticking to the argument.” Later, in forwarding to us the link to the newer and more detailed Pravda article, the author remarked that “it shows what the various mil-bloggers have found out so far. Backs up my argument on the matter. I am not changing my view on the correctness of my story.”

All else aside, based on our own sources, while this alert may or may not turn out to have been premature it almost certainly captures whats going on: Macron wants to intervene — with ground forces. He has said so repeatedly. So have several of his subordinates. A report from Italy tells of new NATO efforts to slow down that train.

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