A 22-year-old US citizen working for a private military contractor was killed in Ukraine fighting alongside Ukrainian forces against Russia, members of his family told CNN.
Family members said Willy Joseph Cancel, a former US Marine, was killed in combat on Monday. The CNN report didn’t reveal the name of the contractor. Cancel’s mother said the group of men he was fighting with were from “all different countries.”
After signing up to fight, Cancel flew to Poland on March 12 and crossed the border into Ukraine by the next day.
When asked if the military contractor Cancel was working for was employed by the US Defense Department, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, “Not that I’m aware of.” When asked if the Pentagon has any contractors working in Ukraine, Kirby again answered, “Not that I’m aware of.”
The US government has a history of using private military contractors in war zones, most infamously was the use of Blackwater in Iraq. If the US was employing private contractors in Ukraine against Russia, it would mark a serious escalation of Washington’s role in the war.
Former US service members have also enlisted in the fight against Russia by joining Ukraine’s newly created international legion. In March, Ukrainian officials said more than 20,000 people from across the world had joined the legion.