Some Syrian paramilitary fighters say they are ready to deploy to Ukraine to fight in support of their ally Russia but have not yet received instructions to go, two of their commanders said.
Nabil Abdallah, a commander in the paramilitary National Defense Forces, said he was ready to use expertise in urban combat gained during the Syrian war to aid Russia, speaking to Reuters by phone from the Syrian town of Suqaylabiyah.
“Once we get instructions from the Syrian and Russian leadership, we will fight this righteous war,” Abdallah said on March 14, four days after President Vladimir Putin gave a green light for 16,000 volunteers from the Middle East to deploy in Ukraine.
“We don’t fear this war and are ready for it once instructions come to go and join. We will show them what they never saw ... We will wage street wars and (apply) tactics we acquired during our battles that defeated the terrorists in Syria,” he added.
The Kremlin referred Reuters’ requests for comment to the Russian Defense Ministry.
The ministry did not respond to a request for comment on whether Russia intended to issue instructions for NDF fighters to deploy or whether any NDF fighters had been recruited so far.
Reuters received no response to questions sent to the Syrian Information Ministry and the army via the Information Ministry on whether Syria intended to issue instructions for NDF fighters to deploy or whether any NDF fighters had been recruited so far.
Syria is Russia’s closest ally in the Middle East, and Moscow’s intervention in the Syrian war in 2015 proved decisive in helping President Bashar Assad defeat opposition forces in enclaves across much of the country.
The NDF emerged from pro-Assad militias early in the Syrian war and fought in offensives that captured some of the rebel held enclaves, with Russian air support.
Now largely demobilized, the NDF numbers in the tens of thousands, experts on Syria say, a potentially large pool of recruits for Russia if the Ukraine war drags on.
A second NDF commander, Simon Wakeel from the nearby town of Mharda, also said that “a lot of our people want to enlist to join our Russian brothers and allies, but we have not received any instructions from the leadership.”
“We are auxiliary forces that fought alongside the army and with our Russian allies. We crushed the terrorists who waged the war in Syria,” added Wakeel, who has been decorated by Russia and whose Facebook
page includes images of church gatherings, men in military fatigues, and Assad.
On March 11, Putin told a meeting of Russia’s Security Council that if people from the Middle East wanted to come to Ukraine of their own accord, and not for money, then Russia should help them “get to the conflict zone.”
Putin’s remarks came after Ukraine announced on March 3 that more than 16,000 foreigners had volunteered to fight on its side against Russia.