Russia has drawn up lists of 40,000 fighters from the Syrian army and allied militia ranks to be put on standby for deployment in Ukraine, a war monitor reported Tuesday.
The Kremlin said last week that volunteers, including from Syria, were welcome to fight alongside the Russian army in Ukraine.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Russian officers, in coordination with the Syrian military and allied militia, had set up registration offices in regime-held areas.
“More than 40,000 Syrians have registered to fight alongside Russia in Ukraine so far,” said Rami Abdel Rahman who heads the UK-based monitor, which has a wide network of sources in Syria.
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Moscow is recruiting Syrians who acquired combat experience during Syria’s 11-year-old civil war to bolster the invasion of Ukraine it launched on February 24.
Russian officers deployed as part of the force Moscow sent to Syria in 2015 to support Damascus had approved 22,000 of them, Abdel Rahman said.
Those fighters are either combatants drawn from units of the regular army or from pro-regime militia groups who have experience in street warfare and received Russian training.
In a country where soldiers earn between $15 and $35 per month, Russia has promised them a salary of $1,100 to fight in Ukraine, the Observatory reported.
They are also entitled to $7,700 in compensation for injuries and their families to $16,500 if they are killed in combat.
Another 18,000 men have registered with the Syrian regime’s ruling Baath party and will be screened by the Wagner Group, a Russian private military contractor with links to the Kremlin, the monitor said.
The Observatory said it had no confirmed reports yet of any Syrian recruits leaving for Ukraine.
A Syrian government representative denied the recruitment drive detailed by the Observatory.
“Until now no names have been written down, no soldiers registered in any centers nor has anyone travelled to Russia to fight in Ukraine,” Omar Rahmoun of the National Reconciliation Committee told AFP.
Syrian mercenaries have already fought on opposing sides of foreign conflicts in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Syria has served as a testing ground for Russia’s military strategy in Ukraine, with many of Moscow’s tactics there drawing from its war experience in Syria, where it tested most of its weapons systems.
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