Lance Zaal, a Key West businessman who retired from the military, is still fighting.
Zaal, a U.S. Marine combat veteran, is active in the Ukraine resistance movement and has traveled to Ukraine four times since the war began 16 months ago to supply and train small groups of Ukrainians to defend themselves and their families.
Southernmost Ghosts tours owner Zaal established Ghosts of Liberty, a private group of U.S. war veterans who believe in liberty and freedom from oppression.
Zaal says government help has been crucial, but many Ukrainians still have unmet needs. The organization seeks to train trainers and equip small units to battle Russian soldiers. Ghosts of Liberty switched from guerilla training to regular missions.
Zaal has taught civilian squad and team commanders close-quarters combat, urban combat, basic infantry tactics, ambushes, combat first aid, and defense.
According to Zaal, his students are diverse.
“They had no desire to fight in a war, but they had no choice,” Zaal told The Keys Citizen. They hate dictatorship. I went to aid and train Ukrainians, not slaughter Russians. It will happen if they lose. I know their situation.”
Since Russia started its full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has recorded the deaths of approximately 8,500 people, but the UN estimates the death toll might be thousands higher.
Zaal joined the Marines in September 2001 and was deployed to Iraq twice.
Since 2014, Zaal has followed Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Ivan Matveichenko, a Kyiv real estate entrepreneur and Zaal’s MBA classmate, is still in touch. Zaal stated Matveichenko followed the Crimea war and Ukraine invasion.
Zaal calls Putin a “brutal criminal tyrant” and “pure evil.”
“War is hell and human life is precious,” Zaal stated, calling the Ukraine war “everyone’s fight.” He asked war veterans to teach Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines and others to provide money and equipment.
Putin’s invasion affects everyone. His dictatorship must stop killing women and children. “For the first time since Hitler, a nuclear-armed tyrant refuses to recognize an entire people’s right to exist during their campaign of conquest,” Zaal said on the Ghosts of Liberty website. Putin wants a terrifying “new world order” ruled by tyranny and oppression. Let’s show him that liberty wins against corrupt, dictatorial thugs.”
“If more Americans knew what is really going on, they would want to help,” Zaal told The Citizen. We must remember our national and cultural symbols. We must decide our character.
Russia-appointed officials in Crimea claimed rockets hit a bridge connecting the Moscow-annexed peninsula and Russia-occupied southern Ukraine on Thursday, jeopardizing a crucial supply lifeline to Russian soldiers during the early phases of a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Russian soldiers in Kherson, part of which Moscow controls, have used the Chongar bridge as their main link. The Associated Press reported that air-launched Storm Shadow missiles provided by the U.K. struck the bridge.
A 6-mile isthmus and multiple bridges connect the Crimean Peninsula to mainland Ukraine.
In televised statements, Ukrainian military Southern Command spokesperson Natalia Humeniuk stressed the need of disrupting Russia’s supplies.
“We are destroying enemy plans, destroying the enemy’s capability to stand against us,” she stated.
Russia-appointed Crimean officials stated traffic may continue on one lane and that two additional crossings are accessible. Despite such attempts to downplay the damage, the strike has harmed Russian military logistics at a time when Ukranian soldiers are probing Russian fortifications in the early phases of a long-expected counteroffensive.
This week, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu warned that Ukraine will utilize U.S.-made HIMARS and U.K.-supplied Storm Shadow missiles to target Russia, including Crimea. He warned that using such missiles on non-combat targets would “trigger immediate strikes on the decision-making centers on the territory of Ukraine.”
Russia invaded Kherson province in February 2022 from Crimea. Ukraine regained Kherson and other territories on the west bank of the Dnieper that bisects the province during its fall counteroffensive.
Russia retains the east bank. This month, an upriver dam collapsed, killing scores and flooding both sides. Ukrainian commanders said it also hampered their early counteroffensive attempts to take Russian strongholds in the region.