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PARIS: The French army has prevented 14 Ukrainian members of the Foreign Legion from travelling east with the possible intention of joining the fighting in their homeland, their commander said Wednesday.

Nine in the group were on leave but not authorised to travel abroad when they were stopped Tuesday in Paris. The others were absent without leave or considered missing, Legion commander Alain Lardet told AFP. They were arrested on a coach headed for Poland neighbouring Ukraine, which has been battling a Russian invasion for the past week.

The Foreign Legion, an elite corps comprising around 9,500 soldiers, is the only French army unit in which foreign nationals can enlist. They qualify for French nationality after several years of service, or sooner if they distinguish themselves in battle.

It was not immediately clear whether the 14 were planning to join the fighting in Ukraine, or simply help their families who had fled Ukraine, the military command said.

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