Russia has drawn up lists of 40,000 fighters from the Syrian army and allied militias ready to be deployed to Ukraine, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH) reported on Tuesday.
The Kremlin announced on 11 March that volunteers, including those from Syria, would be welcome to fight alongside the Russian army in Ukraine, which it invaded on 24 February.
According to the OSDH, Russian officials, in coordination with the Syrian Army and allied militias, opened registration offices in areas controlled by the Damascus regime.
“More than 40,000 Syrians have registered to fight alongside Russia in Ukraine so far,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of OSDH, which is based in the UK and has a wide network of sources across Syria.
Russian officials deployed to Syria as part of Moscow’s 2015 intervention to support the Damascus regime approved the candidacy of 22,000 of them, according to Abdel Rahman.
These fighters are members of regular Syrian Army units and Russian-trained pro-regime militias with experience in fighting in urban areas, according to the OSDH.
In a country where soldiers earn between 13 and 32 euros a month, Russia promises them a salary of $1,100 (1,000 euros) to fight in Ukraine, the Observatory reported.
They are also entitled to $7,700 in compensation in the event of an injury, while their families will receive $16,500 if they die in combat, according to the same source.
At least 18,000 more men will be placed under the leadership of the nebulous Wagner group, a private Russian paramilitary company with ties to the Kremlin, said the OSDH, which specified that it had not yet observed the departure of Syrian recruits to Ukraine.
A Syrian government representative denied the existence of the recruitment drive. “To date, no names have been entered, no soldiers are registered and no one has traveled to Russia to fight in Ukraine,” Omar Rahmun of the National Reconciliation Committee told AFP.
Syrian mercenaries have fought in Libya and in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. The war tactics adopted by Russia in Ukraine resemble those tested for years by Moscow in Syria, where the Russians have experimented with most of their weapons.