April 2, 2023

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US officials say Russia is recruiting Syrians for urban combat in Ukraine

US officials say Russia is recruiting Syrians for urban combat in Ukraine

WASHINGTON – Moscow recruits Syrians skilled in urban combat to fight in Ukraine Russian invasion It is preparing to expand deeper into cities, according to US officials.

An American assessment indicates that Russia, which has been operating inside Syria since 2015, has in recent days recruited fighters from there, hoping that Experience in urban combat can help take Kyiv And deal a severe blow to the Ukrainian government, according to four US officials. Experts said the move indicated a possible escalation of the fighting in Ukraine.

It is unclear how many fighters have been identified, but some of them are already in Russia preparing to enter the conflict, according to one of the officials.

Officials declined to give details about what is also known about the deployment of Syrian fighters in Ukraine, or the status or exact scale of the effort.

According to a post based in Deer Al ZourIn Syria, Russia offered volunteers from the country between $200 and $300 to “go to Ukraine and work as guards” for six months at a time.

Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of the Chechen Republic.


Yelena Afonina / Zuma Press

Chechen forces have also been deployed to Ukraine, According to a Reuters report Quoting Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of the Chechen Republic and ally of the Russian president

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Fighters are also flocking to the country to fight on the side of the Kyiv-based government. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last week that 16,000 foreigners had volunteered to fight for Ukraine, as part of what he called an “international legion”.

As volunteers from other countries pour into Ukraine, the conflict there could become a new center of gravity for foreign fighters, said Jennifer Cavarella, a national security fellow at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, DC.

“Russia’s deployment of foreign fighters from Syria in Ukraine leads to the internationalization of the Ukraine war, and thus could link the war in Ukraine to broader regional dynamics, particularly in the Middle East,” she said.

A Russian soldier on standby in front of the Kremlin.


Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images

Tens of thousands of Russian troops are deployed inside Ukraine and there are daily mortar, missile and other attacks in the northern, eastern and southern regions of the country. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fled the citieswhich was home to nearly two-thirds of the population before the invasion began on February 24.

Ukraine is still in the hands of Mr. Zelensky’s government, and the major cities, Kyiv, the capital, and Kharkiv in the east, are still under government control. The port city of Kherson was taken over by Russia, and other Ukrainian cities are now facing an attack from Russia.

Syrian fighters have spent nearly a decade fighting in the cities, while the Russian conscript force largely lacks these skills. Ms Cavarella said Syrian forces deployed in Ukraine could also be called upon to play a supporting role, depending on how they operate in Syria with the Wagner Group, a mercenary force seen by some as an agent of the Russian government.

Charles Lister, an expert on Syria at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C., wondered how useful recruits from the Middle East would be in Ukraine. Mr. Lister said there were some Syrians trained in Russia who were involved in hunting down Islamic State members who might be in Ukraine, but in general Moscow did not consider Syrian fighters to be good at urban warfare.

“Bringing Syrians to Ukraine is like bringing Martians to fight on the moon,” said Mr. Lister. “They don’t speak the language, the environment is completely different.”

Russia has been a major supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since it entered this conflict, largely through air strikes, as well as the Russian armed forces. The Wagner Group, which arrived in Syria shortly after Russia entered the conflict on behalf of the Assad regime, has conducted support operations such as seizing oil and gas fields and securing other government infrastructure, such as airports.

Russia, which deployed nearly 200,000 troops along the Ukrainian border in the weeks leading up to the invasion, said Wednesday that 498 of its soldiers were killed and 1,597 wounded, a rare public acknowledgment of battlefield losses. Others put the numbers much higher, including the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which, According to a Reuters report, He said the estimate for the death toll of Russian forces was closer to 11,000.

write to Gordon Lubold at [email protected], Nancy Youssef at [email protected] and Alan Collison at [email protected]

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