Syrian fighters who fought the Islamic State and insurgents are signing up to join the war in Ukraine as Putin seeks reinforcements for his forces. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the total number of reported sign-ups from Syria is around 40,000 fighters suiting up for the Russian military and the Wagner Group.

The governments of Russia and Syria have been in close cooperation since Moscow intervened in the Syrian civil war in 2015. The two have maintained good relations ever since Putin visited Syria in 2017. During his visit, Putin was quoted telling his Syrian counterpart that their cooperation “will lead to great successes in the future.”

Previously, SOFREP reported on Russia’s attempt to recruit Syrian fighters for $200 to $300 to operate as “guards” for a six-month period. Furthermore, SOFREP’s own Guy McCardle reported on a Facebook advertisement posted on a private group for soldiers of Syria’s Fourth Armored Division. The ad stated that soldiers were to be deployed to Ukraine for about $3,000.

Members of Syrian Brigadier-General Suheil Salman al-Hassan’s division (also known as the Tiger Force) are reportedly registering to join the Russian force in Ukraine. The division is one of the hundreds of Syrian combatants trained by Russia during its intervention. Other fighters were also reportedly former soldiers, rebels, and veterans who fought against ISIS in the Syrian desert for years.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus (, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons). Source:
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus (Mil.ruCC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons).

A report from AP News says that Moscow is expecting around 40,000 fighters from Syria to replenish the depleted Russian army mired in a grueling war of attrition in Ukraine. These Russian forces have resupplied and are embarking on an eastern offensive into Donbas while trying to take the city of Mariupol in the process.

Head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdurrahman, said that of the 40,000 recruits, 22,000 registered with the Russian military. The remaining 18,000 signed up with the Wagner Group, a Private Military Contracting company that is basically a Russian mercenary group that acts on orders from Putin and the Kremlin.

Currently, only a small number of Syrian combatants have been confirmed to arrive in Russia for training. Earlier in the war, Moscow claimed to have received over 16,000 applications from Middle Eastern fighters, but Western officials and observers contested the claim.

However, as the Kremlin pivots its war goals to the easter regions of Ukraine, the probability of recruiting Syrian fighters is becoming more likely as Russia pushes into the Donbas region. Observers believe that Syrians could be seen fighting on the front lines in the upcoming weeks, especially after General Alexander Dvornikov, former commander of the Russian forces in Syria, has been named the top chief for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. We suspect Russia will not be paying Syria mercenaries $3,000 just to guard a truck park or peel potatoes, it has plenty of conscripts to do that.  What Russia needs are soldiers with combat experience who have no familial or cultural ties to Ukraine and will therefore fight harder.