An Australian truck driver
told his family that he had gone to Ukraine to provide humanitarian aid but had
secretly joined the Foreign Legion to fight against Russia before he was killed
in a mortar explosion.
Michael O’Neill, 47, from
Tasmania returned from living in the Philippines for a short time and drove
trucks in WA to pay off debts when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Less than a month later, the
father-of-three and ‘larrikin’ would train at the Yavoriv military base in the
eastern Ukrainian city of Lviv and nearly three months later until the day he
was to be killed at the front on May 25.
From a bunker in the Ukrainian
village of Molodova, Mr. O’Neill was in good spirits when he recorded his
latest video message to family and friends in early May, telling them to ‘stay
Mr O’Neill in the video points
out that a nearby building that is smoking has just been hit.
‘It’s a river crossing with a
bridge, so a stronghold for both sides. Our boys just went to the river to
fight,” he explained.
“I’ll be the one to drive them
out, possibly with a little damn artillery up my ass.”
“Anyway, boys, war is
On May 24, a day before his
death, Mr. O’Neill revealed to a Ukrainian film crew how he had entered the
country and joined the Foreign Legion. the Australian.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr
Zelensky called on foreigners to join his country’s resistance as war broke
out, with officials saying more than 20,000 from dozens of countries had arrived
within two weeks.
To get to Ukraine, O’Neill had
flown to Germany, where he was unable to leave the airport as the situation
“I met a Ukrainian while we
were being held at the airport and he said, ‘Well, I have an idea – we can fly
to the UK.
“We flew to the UK the next
morning and then he bought me a ticket to come to Ukraine.”
He had told his family at
home, including his three children, mother, siblings, and cousins, that he
wanted to provide humanitarian aid.
But he immediately joined Ukraine’s
military effort and trained at the Yavoriv base in Lviv, despite having no
previous combat experience.
“They’re bullies. I just fell
in love with the Ukrainian spirit,” he told the film crew about why he had
“The Russians are killing
innocent people, attacking villages and not targeting military operations.”
The Yavoriv facility was
bombed by the Russians on March 13 in a particularly ruthless attack.
The Ukrainians retreated to
the northeast town of Rivne and many of the foreign fighters left, but Mr
The Ukrainians took advantage
of his driver skills and he was also posted to his battalion’s medical unit.