Seven years after starting its support for the dictator Bashar al Assad, the Kremlin wants a return of favors: it would need militiamen experienced in urban combat. Russia offers Syrian volunteers between $200 and $300 to fight in Ukraine for 6 months, according to Wall Street Journal.
US officials have revealed that Russia will recruit Syrian militiamen with experience in urban warfare for the final phase of its attack on Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.
Vladimir Putin’s Army entered the Syrian civil war in 2015, supporting the regime of dictator Bashar al Assad. For more than a decade, the country has been mired in a conflict marked by house-to-house battles.
According to the sources, some fighters are already in Russia, getting ready to join the battle in Ukraine, although it is not immediately clear how many have been recruited.
The WSJ reported that a publication based in Deir Ezzor, Syria, claimed that Russia offers each volunteer between 200 and 300 dollars to fight in Ukraine for six months.
The president of the Russian republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, a former rebel turned Kremlin ally, shared videos of Chechen fighters joining the attack on Ukraine, saying some have been killed in the fighting.
Kyiv, the country’s capital, and Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, are still under the control of the Ukrainian government, while Russia has seized the port city Kherson and intensified its bombardment of urban centers across Ukraine.
The arrival of volunteers from other countries willing to fight the war between Russia and Ukraine on one side or the other will make the region a new “center of gravity” for mercenaries, according to Jennifer Cafarella, a national security fellow at the Institute for the Study of the War in Washington DC, pointed out the American media outlet that reported the news.
“Russia’s deployment of foreign fighters from Syria to Ukraine internationalizes the Ukraine war and thus could link the war in Ukraine to broader inter-regional dynamics, particularly in the Middle East,” he said.
The logic of Putin’s recruitment is based on the fact that Syrian fighters have a decade of experience in urban warfare, while the force recruited in much of Russia does not.
Cafarella told the WSJ that Syrian forces deployed in Ukraine could also be asked to play a supporting role, similar to what happened in Syria with the Wagner Group, a mercenary force that operated in the shadows in the service of the Kremlin.
Others, however, doubt this analysis: “Bringing Syrians to Ukraine is like bringing Martians to fight on the moon,” said Lister. “They don’t speak the language, the environment is totally different,” said Charles Lister, a Syria expert at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC, who further argues that Moscow doesn’t think Syrian fighters were good at urban warfare.
On the other hand, foreign fighters have already entered the Ukrainian conflict on both sides. Ukrainian President Zelensky has already counted that 16,000 foreigners have volunteered to fight in defense of Ukraine.
The country several days ago lifted visa requirements for volunteers who wish to enter the country and fight against Russian forces. Most of the foreigners would be from post-Soviet countries, such as Georgia and Belarus, but they would also come from Japan, England and the United States.
According to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, around 20,000 foreign volunteers have traveled to the country to join the Ukrainian forces.
On its 12th day, the Russian invasion has caused more than 1.5 million people to flee the country in what the UN called the fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II.