Volunteers or mercenaries? Here are the 16,000 militiamen enlisted by the Russians

Moscow recruiters move to the villages of Syria: they are looking for experienced fighters. “So Assad will forgive you.” For Zelensky they are “paid killers to destroy Kiev”


THE recruiters pass through the villages and try to convince those who “have experience of fighting” to leave the name on the list. It is not difficult to find some in a country where “experience of fighting” means a civil war that has still been going on for eleven years. There are those who accept out of hunger and because the pay is not bad, someone else is promised that in this way they will earn amnesty, the dictator Bashar Assad will forgive him for having been on the other side, for having fought against his power .

The front in Ukraine instead of poverty or prison. Al Monitor magazine was the first to collect the testimonies of independent Syrian organizations: they say that for a week now the regime’s officers have been putting together groups of men, the lists are presented to Russian commanders deployed since 2015 to support the ally in the Levant, whoever is accepted should undergo a short training. Yesterday Vladimir Putin – in a meeting of the Security Council broadcast on state television – called them “volunteers”, stressed that “they enlist by their choice”. Sergei Shoigu, the defense minister, explained that there are 16,000 militiamen ready to move from the Middle East to Donbass. And from there on the march to Kiev.

In reality they are mostly mercenaries, often forced. The Russians have already used in Libya these infantry hardened by the Arab springs that have become bloody conflicts. In that case the Syrians – Shia or Alawite fighters close to the regime – were recruited by the contractors of the Wagner group, with remote supervision of the Russian General Staff. To support Libyan leader Khalifa Haftar, in opposition to the Tripoli government, Putin had given the green light to send 1,200 paramilitaries of what analysts consider his private army. They are mainly Russians, but also former soldiers of foreign armies: they fight under the name of the musician who inspired Hitler and under the orders of Dimitrij Utkin, a retired colonel inspired by the Nazis.

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