Russian President Vladimir Putin has authorised the deployment of up to 16,000 Middle Eastern volunteers to fight alongside Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine, doubling down on an invasion that the West claims is losing momentum.
Russia can now deploy battle-hardened mercenaries from battlefields like Syria without risking additional Russian military casualties, just over two weeks after Putin launched the attack.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu stated during a meeting of Russia’s Security Council that 16,000 volunteers in the Middle East were ready to fight with Russian-backed militants in the breakaway Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.
Shoigu also advocated handing over to Donbass forces Western-made Javelin and Stinger missiles recovered by the Russian army in Ukraine, as well as other weaponry like as man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS, and anti-tank rocket complexes.
Putin claims that the “special military operation” in Ukraine is necessary to ensure Russia’s security after the US expanded NATO to its borders and supported pro-Western leaders in Kiev.