Ukrainian military intelligence has accused Russia of enlisting mercenaries from Syria to participate in what they describe as Moscow’s “meat assaults” in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian military intelligence directorate (GUR) disclosed the alleged Russian recruitment efforts in Syria via its Telegram channel. GUR claims that training sessions for the initial batch of mercenaries, estimated to consist of approximately 1,000 Syrian individuals, are already in progress.
Newsweek attempted to verify the assertions made by GUR but was unable to do so, and on Thursday, an email was sent to the Russian Ministry of Defense seeking comment.
This is not the first time Russia has faced accusations of attempting to recruit individuals from Syria. In the early stages of the invasion initiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin in February 2022, a senior official from the U.S. Department of Defense stated that Russia was seeking to enlist Syrians to bolster its combat forces.
“We find it noteworthy that [Putin] believes he needs to rely on foreign fighters to supplement what is already a significant commitment of combat power inside Ukraine,” the unnamed defense official remarked in a statement released on March 2, 2022.
In its report on Wednesday, GUR asserted that the alleged recent “recruitment of Syrians for the war indicates a deterioration in the moral and psychological state of the Russian occupation forces due to large-scale losses and the need to replenish them for further meat assaults.”
Throughout the conflict, Russia’s military has frequently been accused of employing “meat assaults,” a term also known as “meat waves.” This term refers to infantry-led frontal assaults that aim to overwhelm the opposing side by deploying significant numbers of soldiers seen as essentially expendable, with little concern for the casualties incurred.
According to GUR, its intelligence sources revealed that Russia has been utilizing travel agencies in Syria to entice men into service in Ukraine. Initially promised employment as security guards at oil refineries in the Russian republic of Yakutia, these men are subsequently offered “higher-paying jobs” in Buryatia, another region of Russia.
Upon arrival in Buryatia, the Syrian recruits are informed that they will be fighting in Ukraine as part of the 5th Separate Guards Tank Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces, as per GUR’s report.
The Ukrainian intelligence agency stated that the Syrian soldiers are granted Russian citizenship and provided with Russian passports before being dispatched to fight in Ukraine.
Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs, shared a video on his X (formerly Twitter) account that was included in GUR’s Telegram post. The footage shows the purported Syrian recruits displaying their new passports and citizenship papers.
Moscow, through travel agencies in Syria, is reportedly recruiting mercenaries for the war against Ukraine — the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine.
The first group of about 1,000 mercenaries is undergoing training near the city of Aleppo and the Kuweires airfield. The focus is… pic.twitter.com/E5bsRhmDWo
— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) February 7, 2024
In summary, the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine reports that Moscow is recruiting mercenaries for the conflict against Ukraine through travel agencies in Syria, with the first group of around 1,000 mercenaries undergoing training near the city of Aleppo and the Kuweires airfield.