“The more I saw of the war going on, the more I thought, ‘I’m done talking, all right? It’s time to take action here,’ ” he said. “I am here to help this country fight what essentially is a war of extermination.”
He added, “This is an existential war, and Russia has brought it to these people, and they are mass-murdering civilians. And there are people here like me who are here to do something about it.”
After the interview, Nance reiterated his message about why he’s fighting Russia.
“I’m DONE talking,” he tweeted with a black-and-white photo of himself in western Ukraine.
A spokesperson with MSNBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Tuesday. The network tweeted Tuesday that Nance is “a former analyst and is not currently affiliated with the network.” He joined the Ukrainian forces after he let his MSNBC contract expire, Nance told the Daily Beast.
In southeastern Ukraine, Russia demanded the surrender Tuesday of Ukraine’s remaining holdouts in the devastated port city of Mariupol. Fighting has also intensified in the eastern Donbas region. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian troops “have begun the battle for Donbas” as part of Moscow’s long-planned offensive in eastern Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov acknowledged Tuesday that the “next phase” of Russia’s military operation is underway and said Russian forces would seek the “complete liberation” of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that are part of Donbas.
Nance, 60, is a “globally recognized counterterrorism expert” with decades of experience in U.S. intelligence, according to his author biography. Nance, executive director of the Terror Asymmetrics Project, a think tank focusing on terrorism and defense, previously deployed on intelligence operations to the Balkans, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, his author biography says.
He is one of thousands of foreign nationals who volunteered to join the International Legion of Territorial Defense, responding to an appeal from Zelensky. Though some, like Nance, have military experience, others are novices in need of heavy training.
“The international legion is one of the best-kept secrets in the country,” Nance told the Daily Beast. “I was very touched when I met the first platoon and saw they were here for the right reasons.”
The State Department has warned Americans that citizens traveling to Ukraine, “especially to take up arms,” face “profound risks … to their health, to their safety, their security.” State Department spokesman Ned Price said last month that U.S. citizens traveling to Ukraine to fight against the Russians “face significant risks, including the very real risk of capture or death.”
Nance was in the middle of an interview in Lviv on Monday when he saw three cruise missiles flying overhead.
“Are we in an air raid?” Nance asked MSNBC correspondent Ali Arouzi.
Nance, who said he had spent some time in Ukraine before the war, told Reid that his friends in the Donetsk region and the Ukrainian army were writing and telling him about the bombardment.
When asked by the MSNBC host what his goal was in joining the International Legion of Territorial Defense, Nance said his sole purpose was “to protect the innocent people of Ukraine from this Russian aggression.”
“They’re using mass heavy weapons used in combat against civilians,” he said, adding that this was “not a conventional war.” “They are destroying infrastructure, and then you find they go to the cities and they massacre men, women and children, and that is the fundamental reason everyone is here.”
Nance’s decision to join Ukrainian forces was met with widespread praise on social media, with one user calling him “a true hero.” A clip of the MSNBC interview posted to Twitter had been viewed more than 3 million times as of early Tuesday.
Toward the end of the interview, Nance emphasized that he was “grateful to be here” to fight Russia and the destruction.
“I’m glad that I can help my friends, and I don’t have to hear them talk about how many kids were killed that day,” he said. “We’re going to try to put a stop to that.”