Russia to deploy a thousand more mercenaries to Ukraine and bombard cities 'into submission'
Russia is set to deploy up to one thousand more mercenaries to Ukraine in the coming weeks and will escalate its bombing campaign against Ukrainian cities, a US intelligence official told the American channel CNN on Saturday.
The US believes that several hundreds Russian mercenaries operate in Kyiv and thousands more in the rest of the country, but are faring poorly and need fresh replacements.
As many as 200 mercenaries may already have been killed in the war as of late February, according to the same US official.
News emerged last week that a squad from the Russian mercenary group Wagner had been sent to Ukraine with instructions to murder the top ranks of the government.
Wagner Group is a private military group that has been accused of numerous war crimes in Syria, Mali and the Central African Republic, where the group operates as an unofficial arm of the Russian army abroad.
Meanwhile, another Western official warned on Friday that Moscow was intensifying its bombing campaign and could "bombard cities into submission".
Although targeting civilians is a war crime, such an escalation would be perfectly aligned with the strategy used since 2015 by Russia in Syria, where Moscow supported Bashar al-Assad's regime militarily by bombarding civilians trapped in opposition-held cities across Syria - targeting civilian infrastructure like schools, hospitals, bakeries and water stations.
Russia unilaterally recognised the independence of two separatist provinces of eastern Ukraine and invaded its peaceful neighbour on 24 February, deploying tens of thousands of troops in and around the country.
The invasion has since escalated into bloody shelling on several major Ukrainian cities, including on residential areas and a civilian nuclear plant.
These tactics violate international law including humanitarian law and war law but generated no military response from the international community against their use by Russia in Syria.
Bombing against cities pushed millions of Syrians to flee their homes, pushing one third of Syrians to flee the country during the decade-long war, while another third remains internally displaced inside Syria. To this day, opposition-held areas remain subject to frequent Russian bombing.
More than 1.4 million Ukrainian civilians have already sought refuge abroad.