Russian President Vladimir Putin is allegedly recruiting Syrian fighters who are experienced in urban warfare to fight in Ukraine in order to overthrow the government in Kyiv, according to a report published by The Wall Street Journal.
Quoting US officials, the report claimed that some Syrians were already in Russia preparing for an assault on the capital, while more fighters were on their way.
"Officials declined to elaborate on what else is known about the deployment of Syrian fighters to Ukraine, the status or precise scale of the effort," the WSJ report further stated.
The Biden government has not reacted to the WSJ report.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, however, did confirm the rumours to journalists on Monday, 7 March.
"We do believe that the accounts of them – the Russians – seeking Syrian fighters to augment their forces in Ukraine, we believe there's truth to that," Kirby said, as quoted by CBS.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has now entered its thirteenth day, but Ukrainians have displayed a ferocious resistance that has delayed the Russian advance, experts say.
Even the Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom in its latest intelligence report, claimed that Russian troops have made "minimal ground advances" over the weekend.
Syrians, Chechens, and the Wagner Group
Russia has been influential in Syria since 2015, when it militarily intervened to aid the Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad to fight against the Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups in the Syrian Civil War that has been raging since 2011.
Deir Ezzor 24 is an independent news platform based in Syria, which reported last week that Russia, with about $200 to $300 per head, was recruiting Syrians as mercenaries to fight in Ukraine as "guards" for six months.
Its report added that Moscow has allegedly contracted Syrians with combat experience, that is, those who fought in the Libyan war.
Indeed, in 2020, Reuters had reported that hundreds of Syrian mercenaries had been deployed by Russia to fight in Libya.
The Reuters exclusive had stated that the "Russian drive to recruit Syrians to fight in Libya for militia leader Khalifa Haftar accelerated in May (2020) when hundreds of mercenaries were signed up, five Syrian opposition sources".
Additionally, The Times, a British newspaper, has reported that mercenaries from the Wagner Group are operating in the Ukrainian capital with orders from Putin to take out the Ukrainian president.
The Wagner Group is a Russian private military company, a paramilitary organisation, which has been sanctioned recently by the European Union for alleged human rights abuses in the areas they reportedly operate, like Libya, Syria, and even the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.
Even Chechnya strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov has shared videos of Chechen fighters joining the assault on Ukraine.
Ukraine's International Legion
This is not to say that the same is not happening on the other side as well, with foreign soldiers having signed up to fight for Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has established an "International Legion of Territorial Defence of Ukraine" and has waived visas for volunteers.
Officials of the Ukrainian government have stated that around 16,000 have volunteered to join the international legion.
Even Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba claimed to CNN that approximately 20,000 foreign volunteers have travelled to the Ukraine to join the fight against Russia.
Additionally, a job advertisement appeared this week on a website called Silent Professionals, which publishes listings for defence and private security jobs.
The advertisement is looking for "extraction and protective agents" to conduct "evacuation operations of individuals and families throughout Ukraine's countryside and major cities."
“Only highly experienced candidates who possess at least 5+ years of military experience in this region of Europe will be considered for this role,” the advertisement added.
Volunteers are expected to show proof of military service and combat experience.
(With inputs from The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, CBS, CNN, and The Times)