Russia has prepared lists of more than 40,000 fighters affiliated with the Syrian regime and groups loyal to it, to fight alongside the Russian army in Ukraine, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday. The Kremlin announced four days ago that it would allow Syrians and citizens of other countries in the Middle East to fight alongside Russian troops, AFP has reported.
"More than 40,000 Syrians have registered to fight in Ukraine so far, through centres set up in several provinces in cooperation between Russian and Syrian soldiers and pro-regime groups," the director of the human rights group, Rami Abdel Rahman, told AFP. He pointed out that, so far, Russia has accepted 22,000 fighters from groups loyal to the Syrian regime who have been trained by Russia and fought alongside its forces in Syria. His organisation has been unable to determine whether Russia has started to send these fighters to Ukraine.
This will not be the first time that Syrian fighters have taken part in wars in other countries. Thousands have fought in Libya and Azerbaijan alongside forces backed by Russia or Turkey.
In a country where the salary of a Syrian soldier ranges between $15 and $35, Russia has promised recruits who wish to go to Ukraine a monthly salary equivalent to about $1,100 and compensation of $7,700 in the event of injury, and $16,500 in the event of death.
The rights group added that more than 18,000 people have also been registered through the offices of the ruling Baath Party in Syria, in cooperation with the Wagner Company, which employs mercenaries and is known for its close relationship with the Kremlin. Wagner has been active in Syria for years, but it is not clear what salaries it is offering those willing to go to Ukraine.
Sources told the Arab Post that 35 Syrian mercenaries linked to Wagner left for Russia last week from Hmeimim Air Base in Latakia to participate in the war against Ukraine. "The Syrian mercenaries fought in military operations in Libya on behalf of Russia about a year and a half ago," they said, adding that the mercenaries have experience in street fighting.
A spokesman for the National Reconciliation Committee of the Syrian government, Omar Rahmon, denied that anyone had registered to fight alongside Russia in Ukraine. Syrian opposition fighters, meanwhile, have expressed the desire to travel to Ukraine and fight alongside Ukrainian forces against the Russians.