Apr 21, 2022 7:02 am
Russia has launched the next phase of its military operation in eastern Ukraine. Now Syrian volunteers want to join the fighters. The Syrian government hardly comments on such reports. Why is that?
During a visit to Syria in 2017, President Vladimir Putin praised a Syrian general whose division played a crucial role in defeating the jihadists in the Syrian conflict, which has now been going on for almost 12 years. At the time, the Russian President praised General Suhail al-Hassan that the cooperation between his fighters and the Russian troops would also “lead to great successes in the future”.
Now members of General al-Hassan’s division are believed to be among hundreds of Russian-trained Syrian fighters who have reportedly recently prepared to fight alongside Russian troops in Ukraine.
So far, however, only a small number of volunteer fighters appear to have arrived in Russia for military training prior to deployment to the front lines. However, military experts believe that the situation could change as Russia has prepared for the next phase of the struggle with a comprehensive offensive in eastern Ukraine. They believe fighters from Syria are more likely to be deployed in the coming weeks – especially after General Alexander Dvornikov, who commanded the Russian military in Syria, was appointed by Russian President Putin as the new commander in Ukraine.
Russia is said to have already drawn up lists of around 40,000 fighters from the Syrian army and other allied militias who are ready to fight in Ukraine. After Kyiv announced that around 20,000 foreign fighters had volunteered for Ukraine, the Russian President gave the go-ahead for the possible deployment of Syrian volunteers.
The 25th Division, better known by its former name “Tiger Forces” or “Quwwat an-Nimr“, is a special unit of the Syrian Arab Army, which is mainly used to successfully carry out offensives in the Syrian conflict. Now about 700 members of this special unit under their commander al-Hassan are said to have left Syria in the last few weeks to work alongside the Russian fighting forces.
Pro-Syrian activists have posted videos on social media over the past two weeks showing members of the “Tiger Forces” conducting military drills, including parachute jumps from helicopters. Russian officers were also seen in one of the videos advising the paratroopers in a helicopter while al-Hassan praised the young men. However, it was not clear whether the videos were up to date.
When recruiting the fighters, it is also a special unit “5th Corps”. This 5th Corps is an association of former Syrian rebels who gave up their fight against the Syrian government in Damascus after a reconciliation agreement and are subordinate to Russian commanders in Syria. There is also the Palestinian Quds Brigade, made up of Palestinian refugees in Syria. All of these forces have fought alongside the Russian military against terrorist groups in the war in Syria. Hundreds of fighters from the Fifth Corps and the Quds Brigade have already gathered at the Russian military base Hmeimim registered in western Syria to take part in combat operations in Ukraine.
The Syrian government hardly comments on such reports. In particular, it is very cautious about reporting on Syrian volunteers who are said to have agreed to fight in Ukraine. One reason could also be that any change in the deployment of Russian forces in Syria, or the deployment of pro-Syrian militias in Ukraine, could create security gaps deployed on the ground in Syria by jihadists such as ISIS and al-Qaeda, and their sponsors such as Turkey and Syrian “opposition groups” are exploited. To a degree potentially worrying the Syrian government, Russia has significantly scaled back its operations in Syria since the start of the war in Ukraine, including targeting fewer airstrikes against jihadist positions in Idlib. The Russian soldiers withdrawn from Syria are now reportedly being replaced by Iranians or pro-Iranian militias.
More on the subject – Report: Hundreds of jihadists from Idlib arrive in Ukraine