Some Syrian paramilitary fighters say they are ready to go to Ukraine to fight in support of their ally Russia, but have not yet received instructions to go, two of their commanders told Reuters.

Nabil Abdallah, a commander of the paramilitary National Defense Forces (NDF), said he was ready to use urban combat expertise gained during the Syrian war to help Russia. He spoke to Reuters by phone from the Syrian city of Suqaylabiyah.

“As soon as we receive instructions from the Syrian and Russian leaders, we will wage this just war,” Abdallah said on March 14, four days after President Vladimir Putin gave the go-ahead for 16,000 volunteers from the Middle East to enter Ukraine. to make.

“We are not afraid of this war and are ready as soon as the instructions come to join in. We will show them what they have never seen … We will wage street wars and (apply) tactics that we have acquired during our battles that the terrorists in Syria,” he added.

The Kremlin referred Reuters’ requests for comment to the Russian Defense Ministry. The ministry did not respond to a request for comment on whether Russia intended to issue instructions to NDF fighters to deploy or whether NDF fighters had been recruited to date.

Reuters did not receive an answer to questions sent to the Syrian Ministry of Information and the military via the Ministry of Information about whether Syria intended to instruct NDF fighters to deploy or whether there were any NDF fighters to date. fighters had been recruited.

Syria is Russia’s closest ally in the Middle East, and Moscow’s intervention in the Syrian war in 2015 proved decisive in helping President Bashar al-Assad defeat rebels in enclaves across much of the country. .

The NDF emerged from pro-Assad militias early in the Syrian war and fought in offensives that captured some of the rebel-held enclaves, with Russian air support.

Now largely demobilized, the NDF runs into the tens of thousands, experts say on Syria, a potentially large pool of recruits for Russia if the war in Ukraine continues.


A second NDF commander, Simon Wakeel from the nearby town of Mharda, also told Reuters that “many of our people want to sign up to join our Russian brothers(and) allies, but we have not received any instructions from the leadership” .

“We are auxiliaries who have fought alongside the military and with our Russian allies. We have crushed the terrorists who waged the war in Syria,” added Wakeel, who has been awarded Russia and whose Facebook page contains images of church gatherings, men fatigues in the army, and Assad.

On March 11, Putin said at a meeting of the Russian Security Council that if people from the Middle East want to come to Ukraine of their own accord, not for money, Russia must help them “go to the conflict zone”.

Putin’s comments came after Ukraine announced on March 3 that more than 16,000 foreigners had volunteered to fight on his side against Russia. Ukraine has established an “international legion” for people from abroad.

In Washington, US Marine General Frank McKenzie, head of the Central Command that oversees US forces in the Middle East, told a Senate hearing on March 15 that the number of Syrians attempting to go to Ukraine is a “droplet” appears to be.

“We believe that from Syria there may be small, small — very small — groups of people trying to make their way into Ukraine,” he said. “Right now it’s a very small trickle.”

Two senior regional officials with close ties to the Syrian government and three sources close to the Syrian military have told Reuters that Russia is trying to attract Syrians with combat experience to Ukraine.

The effort is being conducted from a Russian air base at Hmeimein in Syria’s Latakia province, they said, on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.

The Russian Defense Ministry has not responded to Reuters questions about whether the sources were correct, who conducted the recruitment or how it was progressing. The Syrian Ministry of Information has not responded to a Reuters request for a government assessment of Russia’s recruitment campaign.

Ukrainian military intelligence said 150 mercenaries from Russia’s Hmeimein Air Force Base in Syria were sent to Russia on March 15 to participate in military actions against Ukraine, the intelligence chief of Ukraine’s defense ministry said in response to questions from Reuters.

It said more than 30 fighters from Russia had returned to Hmeimein “after being wounded in fighting with Ukrainian defenders”.

Ukrainian military intelligence said the recruits were promised that they would be used strictly in a police role to maintain order in occupied territories, but recently information has begun to circulate among mercenaries about directly participating in military actions against the Ukrainian army.

The Russian Ministry of Defense and the Syrian Ministry of Information did not comment on the statement by the Ukrainian intelligence service.


In a video released on March 11, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine had “information that Russian troops are bringing in mercenaries from different countries,” and warned “anyone who tries to join forces with the occupying forces in our Ukrainian lands — this will be the worst.” decision of your life”.

The senior regional officials said the salary offered to an ordinary recruit was about $1,000 a month, about 30 times the salary of a Syrian soldier. Experienced fighters can get $2,000.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organization that reports on Syria using sources from all sides of the conflict, said a monthly salary of 1,000 euros is being offered, along with compensation of 7,000 euros for the wounded and injured. 15,000 euros paid to the families of fighters who have died. It cited Syrian military sources for the information.

No contracts had been issued, he said.

When Reuters asked him about reports of offering or paying money to go to Ukraine, NDF commander Wakeel denied this, saying “we are volunteers in a just cause”.

Reuters was unable to independently verify compensation details reported by the Observatory and regional officials.

Speaking at the Russian Security Council meeting on March 11, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the Middle East volunteers were ready to fight alongside Russian-backed forces in the breakaway Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.

“Many of them we know – they have helped in the fight with (Islamic State) in the most difficult time, in the past 10 years,” said Shoigu, in a clear reference to the conflict in Syria.

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