Two weeks after the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the world is no longer the same. And Syria is no exception. Although internal shifts in the power dynamic remain constrained, the Syrians are playing an increased role in Europe’s newest conflict. Reports from both the opposition and the regime are accusing their political opponents of sending Syrians to fight in Ukraine alongside one of the warring parties.
The Syrian Observer has reported that a Russian intelligence statement said that the U.S.-controlled al-Tanf base in Syria has become “a training camp for ISIS terrorists before they are sent to Donbas.” The opposition National Army denied reports stated in Syrian and Russian media, according to the opposition website, al-Souria Net. Meanwhile, Syrians for Truth and Justice said in a report on Thursday last week that fighters had begun registering with the Syrian regime’s security services in order to go fight in Ukraine alongside Russian forces.
And in fact, the opposition website Baladi News, Russia asked the National Defense Militia to provide it with Syrians to fight its war on Ukraine. The leader of the National Defense Militia in the town of the Christian town of al-Suqaylabiyah in the Hama countryside, Nabel al-Abdullah, announced his support for Russia in the invasion of Ukraine, appreciating what he described as the friendship between Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin. Sources told Baladi News, the Russian base of Hemeimeem asked Abdullah to register the names of members wishing to go to Russia to fight in its ranks in Ukraine. The members would go under semi-annual contracts providing for the dispatch of the mercenary to guard public and military facilities, with a monthly salary of $1,500.
Salem al-Meslet, the president of the Syrian opposition, said Russia is trying to involve the Syrians in its crimes in Ukraine by sending them to fight, according to the SOC Media Department. Meslet called on the United Nations to take urgent measures to stop this crime and hold those responsible to account. He expressed the support of the Syrian people to the friendly Ukrainian people who have become a new victim of the Russian aggression, as has been the case in Syria since 2015.
In the past, the opposition fighter Abu Tow, known for destroying Assad regime tanks, offered to fight alongside the Ukrainian army, according to the pan-Arab al-Araby al-Jadeed. “How can I go to Ukraine and fight alongside the Ukrainian army Is there a way I’m ready,” he tweeted.
On the regime side, the official agency SANA claimed that “hundreds of terrorists” from Jabhat al-Nusra (referring to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham) left Syria to fight in Ukraine with the help of Turkey. The agency quoted an anonymous source speaking to Sputnik, saying that “about 450 terrorists of Arab and foreign nationalities arrived in Ukraine from Idleb and Aleppo countryside to participate in the fighting in Ukraine, less than three days after they left the Syrian lands, passing through Turkish territory.” The Syrian ambassador to Russia, Riad Haddad, even said that the decision of Ukraine to invite foreign fighters to join its army will turn it into a “European Idleb”, according to SANA.