“We are ready for war in Ukraine and we will show them what they have never seen,” said Nabel Shafiq al-Abdullah, the commander of the National Defense in the western Hama countryside of Suqaylabiyah. Abdullah said that he awaits Russian orders to fight alongside its forces in the invasion of Ukraine.
Since the Russian invasion began on February 24th, and in light of talk of fighters leaving Syria to support Russian forces, Abdullah’s name has emerged as one of the people who participated in the crimes of Assad’s forces in Syria, who now want to go and confront the so-called “neo-Nazis” in Ukraine.
“Once we get instructions from Syrian and Russian leadership, we will go to this war,” Abdullah told Reuters on Sunday.
“We are ready as soon as the instructions come to go and join. We will show them something that they have never seen; we will wage guerilla warfare and (apply) the tactics that we learned during our battles in Syria,” he said.
This is not the first time that Abdullah has expressed his desire to join Russian forces. He posted a recording on his Facebook page a few days ago denying that he had departed for Ukraine, but nevertheless confirmed his willingness to go after receiving instructions from Russia and the regime.
Abdullah, who hails from Suqaylabiyah, was not known before the Syrian revolution began. According to media reports, he worked in agriculture before opening a cellular communications shop.
With the outbreak of the Syrian revolution, Abdullah assumed the cover of religion in order to become closer to the Assad regime. The regime provided Abdullah with support and made him commander of national defense in the predominantly Christian city in order to win over the local population.
Abdullah set up training camps in the city and began to include young people and even children, based on photos published by pro-Assad pages in July 2015.
At the time, the “National Defense in Suqaylabiyah” Facebook page stated that the training course was the first of its kind in Syria. During an inspection tour of the session, Abdullah commented that “the course is training in the fields of support and military services, as well as guidance and awareness lessons.”
Abdullah has participated in many battles in the Hama countryside, particularly Qalaat al-Madhaf and Kafr Nabudah, as well as battles against the so-called Islamic State in the Syrian Badia.
Russian interference. turning point
The Russian intervention in Syria in September 2015 was a turning point for Abdullah and his fighters, due to the great support he received from the Hemeimeem base and his emergence as a Christian cleric.
Russian interest in Christians from the region played an important role in supporting Abdullah in the region, strengthening his relationship with Russia by providing him with military support. He was equipped with high-quality equipment, such as night vision devices, as well as mine and explosives detectors.
Abdullah visited Moscow in 2019 to represent the al-Ghab Plain area of the Hama countryside at the 5th World Christian Conference, which was held in Moscow.
Last year, Russia awarded Abdullah a second-class Loyalty to Russia medal for “succeeding in carrying out special tasks and contributing to the strengthening of combat and counter-terrorism alliances in Syria,” as described by the letter accompanying the honor.
Over the past few years, Abdullah has tried to present himself to the Russians as a leader defending his hometown and the Christian religion by listing the names of Russians killed involved in military operations in Syria in the Suqaylabiyah Church.
In 2020, Abdullah also decided to build a church as a miniature version of Hagia Sophia in the city of Suqaylabiyah, in response to the Turkish government’s move to open the Hagia Sophia building as a mosque in Istanbul.
The biggest recruitment
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there have been media reports of recruiting and registering thousands of Syrians to fight in Ukraine, all sponsored by the Assad regime, which amounts to hundreds of dollars per person every month.
On Saturday, The Guardian reported that the Syrian regime was overseeing “the largest mercenary recruitment operation in the world.”
“They are at the forefront of what could be considered the world’s largest government-sponsored mercenary recruitment operation, and within days Syrian soldiers could be deployed on the front lines in Ukraine to reinforce Russia’s embattled fronts,” The Guardian reported.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.