According to US intelligence reports, the Kremlin is recruiting Syrian volunteers to fight in their invasion of Ukraine. Moscow appears to be seeking Syrians with urban combat experience to help bolster their campaign to take hold of Ukraine. As reported by Ukrainian news sources, the move hints at a probable escalation of fighting in the coming days amid suffering almost 12,000 casualties. The Russians heavily dispute this number, reporting just about 500 casualties last week, while the Pentagon states that 4,000 Russian troops had died.

“The accounts of the Russians seeking Syrian fighters to augment their forces in Ukraine, we do believe there’s truth to that,” said Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby. “It’s interesting that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin would have to rely on foreign fighters.”

Kirby disclosed that there is no confirmation of how many fighters have been recruited, but he said some of them are already in Russia, preparing for deployment to Ukraine. It also remains unclear how long it would take for these men to reach Ukraine and how they would be integrated into the Russian army. It is also unknown what specific roles the Syrians would perform in their deployment.

“We do have indications that corroborate that story that in fact they are trying to enlist and recruit foreign fighters, which we find noteworthy that with more than 150,000 troops, a stalled military advance inside Ukraine, particularly in the north, that Mr. Putin has found it necessary to try to recruit foreign fighters for this war of his,” Kirby said.

Pro-Assad fighters during the Syrian Civil War (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights). Source:
Pro-Assad fighters during the Syrian Civil War (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights)

In an exclusive report by a Syrian publication known as Deir Ezzor 24, Russia was said to be offering monetary compensation ranging from $200 to $300 and additional privileges to Syrians willing to go to Ukraine and operate as “guards” for a six month period. Prior to employing the help of Syrians, the Russian military has also employed the usage of Chechen forces to fight in Ukraine, specifically to hunt down and assassinate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov swore cooperation with Putin. However, they have already recorded casualties. It was reported that a convoy of 56 Chechen tanks and their general Magomed Tushayev, head of the 141 motorized regiment of the Chechnya National Guard, had been killed by Ukrainian forces.

“The president (Putin) took the right decision, and we will carry out his orders under any circumstances,” said Kadyrov.

As reported by Kirby, Belarus, a Russian ally whose border was used as a staging ground for the Ukrainian invasion, has yet to show signs of its own troops partaking in the invasion. These reports of Russia tapping foreign forces come as the Russian advance towards the Ukrainian capital has continued to stall even with Moscow engaging nearly 100% of its invasion force, according to a Senior Defence Official from the Pentagon.

“We’re not seeing a lot of progress, at least over the course of the last couple of days. They continue to have some progress in the South, as we’ve talked about,” said the official.