Middle Eastern mercenaries are now being recruited to help Russia overcome stout Ukrainian resistance, according to new reports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky responded to Russia’s call to throw hired killers against his weary fighters on Friday in a statement posted on Telegram, according to the Times of Israel.
“It’s a war with a very stubborn enemy… who has decided to hire mercenaries against our citizens. Murderers from Syria, a country where everything has been destroyed… like they are doing here to us,” Zelensky said.
A senior U.S. Defense Department official said Russia is principally seeking Syrian soldiers for hire, according to Nikkei Asia. Russia has strongly supported Syria’s government.
“We find that noteworthy, that [Russian President Vladimir Putin] believes that he needs to rely on foreign fighters to supplement what is … a very significant commitment of combat power inside Ukraine as it is,” the U.S. official said Monday,
Ali Jafar Askar, 35, who is a member of the Iraqi militia group, Asaib Ahl al-Haq said he was offered $400 a week to kill Ukrainians.
“Now is the time to fight imperialism and defeat it,” he said.
Had a substantive conversation with @POTUS. Gave him the assessment of the situation on the battlefield, informed about the crimes of Russia against the civilian population. We agreed on further steps to support the defense of Ukraine and increase sanctions against Russia.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) March 11, 2022
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov framed the use of Middle East fighters differently.
He said Syrians and other fighters “asked” to help Russia topple Ukraine, according to Newsweek.
Pskov said the United States was sending mercenaries to Ukraine.
“If the West is so enthusiastic about the arrival of mercenaries, then we also have volunteers who want to participate,” Peskov said.
Russian TV showed Putin endorsing the idea.
‘If you see that there are these people who want of their own accord, not for money, to come to help the people living in Donbass, then we need to give them what they want and help them get to the conflict zone,’ he said, according to the Daily Mail.
Russia wants mercenaries “to assist in urban warfare and potentially help with security operations after conventional combat is largely finished, particularly for counterinsurgency,” said J.D. Williams, senior international and defense policy researcher at Rand Corp, according to Insider.
BREAKING: The Ukrainian government says Russia’s military has shelled a mosque sheltering more than 80 people in the besieged city of Mariupol. A government statementy did not have any immediate reports of casualties. https://t.co/WM5frnmTk6
— The Associated Press (@AP) March 12, 2022
Zelensky said Russia has suffered massive defeats, calling his country’s resistance, the “biggest blow to Russia’s army in decades,” according to CNN.
Zelensky claimed 31 Russian tactical battalion groups have lost their ability to fight and more than 360 Russian tanks have been lost. Those claims could not be verified.
“They are using terror to break us, to break our faith in Ukraine’s victory, I am confident they will not succeed,” Zelensky said.
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