Russia has compiled a list of 40,000 fighters from the Syrian army and allied militias to make available for expansion in Ukraine, a war monitor said on Tuesday.
The Kremlin said last week that volunteers, including Syrians, were welcome to fight alongside the Russian military in Ukraine.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and activists say that Russian officials, in coordination with the Syrian army and allied militias, have set up registration offices in areas under the regime’s control.
“More than 40,000 Syrians have been registered so far in Ukraine to fight alongside Russia,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, the UK’s chief monitor.
Moscow is hiring Syrians who gained 11 years of fighting experience in the Syrian civil war to bolster the Ukrainian invasion that began on February 24th.
Russian officials deployed as part of a force deployed to Syria to help Damascus in Moscow in 2015 accepted 22,000 of them, Abdel Rahman said.
These fighters are military or pro-regime militias with experience in street warfare and Russian training.
In a country where soldiers earn between $ 15 and $ 35 a 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 and $ 16,500 to their families if they die in combat.
Another 18,000 men were registered with the Syrian Ba’ath party and the Wagner Group will monitor the Kremlin’s private military contracts with Russia.
Misinformation about Syrian recruitment in Ukraine is spreading online.
Last week, they shared images of a Syrian soldier who was said to have died in Ukraine, but later appeared in 2015 to be killed in his hometown.
– Lack of jobs –
The observatory said it had not yet heard of any Syrian recruitment to Ukraine.
Abdel Rahman said Russia had recruited Syrian army recruits from the 25th Special Forces Division of the Special Forces Division, formerly known as the “Tiger Forces”, and from the Russian 5th Division.
Fighters from the military branch of the Palestinian group Liwaa al-Quds and the Ba’ath party also registered.
A Syrian government official denied the recruitment push.
“So far no names have been written, no soldiers have been registered in any of the centers, and no one has traveled to Russia to fight in Ukraine,” Omar Rahmoun of the National Reconciliation Commission told AFP.
Syrian mercenaries have already fought on the sides of foreign conflicts, in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.
For more than a decade, the war has driven 90 percent of the population to poverty, with pro-truth and justice Syrians saying it was a key factor in recruitment.
A Syrian soldier told the activist group this month that he had signed up to fight in Ukraine because he could not find a job after his military service.
“The situation is very serious. There is no electricity, no heating or no gas in the house,” he said, adding that he was registered at an air force information office near Damascus.
– ‘A few hundred dollars’ –
Allied forces in the regime opened recruitment centers in the eastern Al-Mayad and Deir Ezzor villages, according to Omar Abu Layla, head of Deir Ezzor 24.
“It all started at Wagner’s Deir Ezzor; so far only dozens have signed up,” he said.
“In a country without basic necessities, some have no choice but to fight … for hundreds of dollars.”
Turkish-backed rebels in northern Syria are also preparing to send fighters to the opposite side.
An AFP reporter in northern Syria said the factions preparing for Ukraine had divided Sultan Murad, Sulaiman Shah and Hamza divisions, all of whom had previously sent hundreds of fighters to fight in Libya and Azerbaijan.
Although money is the main culprit for Syrian mercenaries on both sides of the conflict, rights groups say Ankara’s representatives often exploit fighters and withhold salaries.
One of the fighters told AFP that he had been promised $ 3,000 to enter the battlefield of Ukraine.
“We are tired of going hungry … I will never go back. I plan to go from Ukraine to Europe,” said another.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a union feed.)