Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently approved recruiting foreign volunteers to help strengthen his flagging military forces during their attempt to take Ukraine.

Putin making his point while addressing the world press. Photo Credit: Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik

Justifying his actions, the Russian President stated:

“If you see that there are people who want to come voluntarily, especially free of charge, and help people living in the Donbas, you need to meet them halfway and help them move to the war zone.”

To refresh your memory, Donbas is a region in south-eastern Ukraine. There, Russian-backed separatist groups have claimed independent republics (e.g., the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic) where Putin is accusing Ukrainians of genocide against Russian speakers.

Russia Claims That There Is a Great Demand to Join Their Cause

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claims to have received a “colossal number of applications” from across the globe to join what he is calling the “Ukrainian Liberation Movement.” He has told the press that the Kremlin has received more than 16,000 requests from individuals who want to join the fight. Most of these came from the Middle East.

There are numerous reports that Russia is turning to Syria for experienced fighters to strengthen their ranks. Indeed, there is no shortage of armed factions, militias, and mercenaries in that embattled nation. Pro-government paramilitary groups in Syria include Christian militia fighters, many thousands of National Defense Forces, and numerous army defectors skilled to varying degrees in urban and guerilla warfare.

Danny Makki is a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute specializing in Syria. He has recently said, “If need be, Russia could quickly recruit members of these groups to fight in Ukraine.” He continued, “Given the misery of the Syrian economy, there would be no shortage of combat-hardened men of military age willing to put their lives on the line for a modicum of material gain.” 

So, Why Does Russia Need Foreign Fighters?

That’s an excellent question. Let’s have a quick look at the situation: