Russia Enlisting Syrian Mercenaries for 'Meat Assaults' in Ukraine: Kyiv

Russia Enlisting Syrian Mercenaries for ‘Meat Assaults’ in Ukraine: Kyiv

Ukrainian military intelligence on Wednesday accused Russia of recruiting mercenaries from Syria to fight in Moscow’s “meat assaults” in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s military intelligence directorate (GUR) detailed the alleged Russian efforts in Syria on its Telegram channel. According to GUR, training sessions for the first group of mercenaries—which is said to number around 1,000 Syrian men—is already underway.

Newsweek could not verify the allegations made by GUR, and the Russian Ministry of Defense was contacted via email on Thursday for comment.

Russia has previously faced accusations of attempting to recruit people from Syria. During the early weeks of the invasion that Russian President Vladimir Putin launched on Ukraine in February 2022, a senior official from the U.S. Department of Defense reported Russia was attempting to sign up Syrians to add to its combat forces.

Military personnel undergo training in Russia’s Rostov region on October 1, 2023. Ukraine’s military intelligence accused Moscow of recruiting Syrian mercenaries to fight for the Russian armed forces in Ukraine.

Photo by STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images
“We find that noteworthy that [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 defense official, who was not named, said in a statement released on March 2, 2022.

In its Wednesday report, GUR wrote 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 course of the war, Russia’s military has frequently been accused of using “meat assaults,” also known as “meat waves.” The term is jargon for infantry-led frontal assaults, which attempt to overwhelm the opposite side by sending large numbers of those regarded as essentially single-use soldiers to the front line with little regard to the death toll.

GUR wrote that its intelligence sources discovered Russia has been using travel agencies in Syria to lure men into service in Ukraine. After first being promised jobs as security guards at oil refineries in the Russian republic of Yakutia, these men are then offered “higher-paying jobs” in Buryatia, another region of Russia.

Once they’re in Buryatia, the Syrian recruits are then told they are to fight in Ukraine as part of the 5th Separate Guards Tank Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces, according to GUR.

The Ukrainian intelligence agency also said the Syrian soldiers are granted Russian citizenship and given Russian passports before they are sent off to fight in Ukraine.

Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs, shared on his X (formerly Twitter) account a video GUR included in its Telegram post. The clip shows the alleged Syrian recruits holding up 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…

— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) February 7, 2024
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