Russian soldiers redeployed from Syria allegedly to fight in Ukraine
Russian soldiers stationed in Syria have been transferred to the Russian al-Hmeimim airbase in Latakia, allegedly to redeploy these fighters in Ukraine, Syrian local media reported on Monday.
A number of Russian military police in Aleppo were called back to al-Hmeimim last week, according to Enab Baladi. Military checkpoints manned by Russian military police in Aleppo province were reinforced with Syrian regime soldiers accordingly.
The move comes as Russia's invasion of Ukraine enters its fifth week. Experts say that Russia's progress has been slower than expected and it has suffered high casualty counts and equipment loss, though exact figures are unknown.
After Ukrainians put up fierce resistance, Russia has started becoming more indiscriminate in their fighting. Russia has bombed civilian buildings and infrastructure and instituted siege-like conditions on at least one city Mariupol – with tactics some say are reminiscent of tactics the Russians have used in Syria.
To bolster their forces in Ukraine, Russia has reportedly started recruiting Syrian mercenaries from Syria. According to The Guardian, at least 150 Syrians have arrived in Ukraine already. A Syrian war monitor has reported a figure of 40,000 Syrian fighters signing up with the Russian forces, but that claim has not been verified anywhere else.
Russia has deployed Syrian fighters in other theatres of combat before, including in Libya and Azerbaijan. In both instances, Syrians were fighting on both sides of the conflict, as Turkey similarly employed Syrian mercenaries in both countries.
There have been reports of attempts to recruit opposition-affiliated Syrians to fight on the Ukrainian side against Russia, but as yet there has been no verification that they had actually reached Ukraine.
Russian military involvement on the ground in Syria mainly involves military advising and security patrols. The bulk of Russia's actual fighting in Syria are the regular aerial bombing campaigns over opposition-held northwest Syria and the central Syrian desert. where IS cells are present.
Russian military police are mostly deployed in southern Syria where they officially oversee the "reconciliation process" which has governed the regime's retaking of the area from the opposition since 2018.
Russian military police are also present in northwest and northeast Syria, where they patrol alongside Turkish forces as part of various ceasefire agreements.
Russia intervened in the Syrian civil war in 2015, turning the tide in favour of the Syrian regime. Since its intervention, Russian soldiers and planes have killed nearly 7,000 civilians.