Chase the enemy until he is eliminated. Leave cities in rubble. Mass violations. End any vestige of leaders who can raise the defeated people. Make any sign of opposition disappear, no matter how minimal.
That was the tactic used by the Russian forces that came to the rescue of Bashar al Assad’s regime when it was cornered in Damascus in the middle of the Syrian civil war. They were devastating. They reduced the city of Idlib to stones and used the same techniques of the ISIS and Al Qaeda jihadists to finish them off. But above all, they persecuted pro-Western fighters to extinction.
Now, Russian soldiers are putting into practice what they learned in Syria in the invasion of Ukraine. And they are also calling on the pro-Assad Syrian militiamen who accompanied them in the Middle East campaign to fight alongside them. More than 40,000 Syrian mercenaries have already signed up on a list presented at the Russian embassy in Damascus to go to Ukraine. They all have combat experience alongside the Russians. That was the basic requirement that the Russian embassy in Damascus had asked for. According to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, in the separatist enclaves of Luhansk and Donetsk there are already some 16,000 “volunteers” fighting on the Russian side.
They are also presenting themselves as “volunteers” Libyan veterans from all sides since the dictator of Tripoli, Muammar al Gaddafi, fell in 2011. Fighters from Khalifa Haftar’s forces and the Benghazi militias, the Misurata Brigades and even jihadists from the Benghazi Shura Council. These veterans have been fighting each other since 2014, but now they are going to fight on the same side. Many of them are veterans of the Nagorno-Karabakh war where they fought alongside Moscow-backed Armenian forces. They are known for their ferocity and savagery. They say to be “Putin’s soldiers”.
“Syria was the school of war for Russia to later invade Ukraine”, explained to the BBC, Jennifer Cafarella, from the Institute for the Study of War and the US National Security Institute. The expert who has been following the Kremlin’s military campaigns in Syria for years, a review of the Russian advance on Ukraine shows what it is the troops that were in Syria that have had the greatest success. “The most effective military operations that we are seeing in Ukraine are those carried out by forces coming from Crimea, where Russia’s Southern Military District is pushing effectively to essentially secure the Ukrainian coast,” he explains.
“And these are relevant because the Southern Military District and its commander are the ones who have been directing the war in Syria. So in many ways it is the most experienced unit the Russians have in Ukraine and may explain why they are having relatively more success on the ground,” he adds.
The mercenaries are being offered six-month contracts for between $1,500 and $2,000 per month, although a news channel from Deir Ezzor, in eastern Syria, reported that several young people in the city they had been offered only $300. In Syria, the majority of the population lives on less than a dollar a day.
According to European intelligence reports, he would be traveling to Belarus an unknown number of members of Division 25, an elite body that is part of the structure of the Syrian Army and that until 2019 it operated as a militia loyal to the country’s president, Bashar al Assad, under the name Tigre Forces. also of the Eighth Brigade, which was trained and organized by Russian instructors in the framework of a restructuring of the Syrian forces two years ago. Other reports indicating that a group of Chechen militiamen who were stationed in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib would have arrived in Ukrainethe last opposition stronghold in the Arab country, but to face the Russians, their historical enemies.
“Foreign violence-oriented extremists traveling to Ukraine they represent clear risks to global security. They gain further combat experience in the Ukrainian conflict zone and could have significant violence-oriented firepower in their home countries upon their return. Their ability to plan and successfully carry out attacks in accordance with their ideology greatly increases”, the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) warned yesterday in a report it issued from Berlin.
The activity of the so-called Wagner Group that is financed directly by those close to Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin. These are about 10,000 mercenaries who were part of the paramilitary forces on all fronts in which Russia had an interest in recent years. They were in the wars in Sudan, the Central African Republic, Donbas, Syria, Libya and train the special forces of Venezuela. On their uniform they wear Nazi insignia. Its main promoter is Yevgueni Prigozhin, the so-called “Putin’s chef”.
The radicalized extreme right of several European countries, from Sweden to Germany, also enlisted to fight alongside the Russians. The accessions of groups such as the Slovak Conscripts, the Hungarian National Front and the Nordic Resistance Movement. They consider that the authoritarian nationalism of the Moscow regime is the example to follow to impose it in their countries. They have good military training. Many are former combatants of the national armies with experience in Afghanistan. Squads of these neo-Nazi militiamen were already in Donetsk and Luhansk supporting pro-Russian separatists before the invasion of February 24. And they faced the so-called Azov Regiment, which is also a far-right group with similarities to its European “brothers”, but which is integrated into the Ukrainian Defense Forces. All of these organizations have a profuse activity in the chats of the “deep Internet” and there they recruit new fighters.
Last Friday, Putin claimed that his welcome to foreign forces came after an influx of fighters who were encouraged to travel there by the West. Previously had denied that Syrian troops being recruited were paid. “If they see that there are these people who want of their own free will, not for money, to come and help the people who live in Donbas, so we have to give them what they want and help them get to the conflict zones“, said.
The war in Ukraine enters a very complex and dynamic process where everything is possible and no one can predict how long it will last. The Russian generals believed that they would wipe out the Ukrainian defenses in a matter of hours and bring President Zelensky’s government to capitulation just two or three days later. Stiff Ukrainian resistance, bolstered by Western weaponry, proved the Moscow generals dead wrong. It’s been 20 days of war and they still haven’t been able to take the main cities. They desperately need fresh, motivated, well-trained troops, with experience and enough savagery, like the one the Syrian and Libyan mercenaries haveif they want to continue their advance.
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