Reuters: “Putin gave the green light on Friday for up to 16,000 volunteers from the Middle East.”
President Vladimir Putin is planning to being thousands of Arab mercenaries to Ukraine as invading Russian forces remain bogged down and fail to take even a single Ukrainian city after seventeen days of fighting. “Putin approves bringing ‘volunteer’ fighters from the Middle East and elsewhere to join Russia’s Ukraine offensive,” The Associated Press reported Friday.
Russia plans to recruit around 16,000 foreign fighters to boost the ranks of existing Russian invasion force of 190,000, news reports say. Thousands of Chechen Muslim fighters are already accompanying the Russian grounds force.
The news comes as Russians suffer heavy losses since the invasion began more than two weeks ago. Ukrainian forces have reportedly killed three Russian generals so far. Between 3,500 to 6,000 invading Russian soldiers may also have died in the fighting, U.S. officials estimate.
The Reuters reported Moscow’s changing tactics:
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the green light on Friday for up to 16,000 volunteers from the Middle East to be deployed alongside Russian-backed rebels to fight in Ukraine, doubling down an invasion that the West says has been losing momentum.
The move, just over two weeks since Putin ordered the invasion, allows Russia to deploy battle-hardened mercenaries from conflicts such as Syria without risking additional Russian military casualties. read more
At a meeting of Russia’s Security Council, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said there were 16,000 volunteers in the Middle East who were ready to come to fight alongside Russian-backed forces in the breakaway Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.
The move, just over two weeks since Putin ordered the invasion, allows Russia to deploy battle-hardened mercenaries from conflicts such as Syria without risking additional Russian military casualties.
“If you see that there are these people who want of their own accord, not for money, to come to help the people living in Donbass, then we need to give them what they want and help them get to the conflict zone,” Putin said from the Kremlin.
The decision suggests that President Putin has given up his earlier hopes of a quick victory, and plans to wage a long and drawn-out battle for control of Ukraine. The Arab mercenaries, largely recruited from Syria, are being sought by Russia for their experience in urban combat witnessed during the country’s decade-long bloody civil war.
Kyiv Burns as Putin Expands Offensive
Latest satellite images show fires blazing across the residents areas of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. The Russian forces are only 15 miles from the city center, and are pounding the city’s residents with artillery barrages.
According to the UK Defense Ministry, Russians are preparing to encirclement of the capital. “Sirens and explosions have been heard in many other cities across Ukraine, as Russian troops try to encircle key targets,” the BBC reported on Saturday.
UK’s Sky News reported situation in Kyiv:
The satellite images from Maxar appear to suggest that Russian military units are “actively firing artillery towards residential areas” – and in one photograph, a bright muzzle flash can be seen from an artillery gun.
Widespread damage and impact craters have been seen in Moschun, a town northwest of Kyiv, and fires are continuing to burn at Hostomel Airport, which is also known as Antonov Airport. (…)
A 40-mile (64km) line of tanks and other vehicles had amassed outside Kyiv early last week – but progress by Russian troops appeared to have stalled amid reports of food and fuel shortages, muddy roads, and attacks by Ukrainian troops using anti-tank missiles.
Other cities in east and south of the country suffer a similar fate. “The besieged cities of Kharkiv, Mariupol, Mykolaiv and Sumy have been enduring relentless shelling as well as freezing temperatures, with no power and little food or water,” the BBC noted.
The Russian military is also intensifying its attack in the western part of Ukraine. “Russian forces expanded their offensive in Ukraine on Friday as they conducted airstrikes in new areas in the country’s west,” public broadcaster France24 reported. “Ukrainian authorities said Russian airstrikes hit in the western cities of Ivano-Frankiivsk and Lutsk — far from Russia’s main targets elsewhere in the country.”
Russia Threatens U.S. and European Arms Shipment
Russia has declared that U.S. and Western weapons shipments destined for Ukraine are a legitimate military targets. Moscow “warned the U.S. that pumping weapons from a number of countries it orchestrates isn’t just a dangerous move, it’s an action that makes those convoys legitimate targets,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Saturday.
The Russian threat comes as the European Union indicated that it has raised the military assistance to Ukraine by $500 million. This will be in addition to $500 million in defense equipment the 27-member European bloc agreed to give Kyiv last week, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell suggested on Saturday.
The U.S. and European allies have replenished Ukrainian military supplies since the beginning of the invasion. “The US and its NATO allies have so far sent 17,000 anti-tank missiles and 2,000 stinger anti-aircraft missiles to support Ukraine in its war against Russia,” Sky News UK reported.
Putin’s Ally China Getting Cold Feet
With Russian forces failing to make headway, China appears to be getting cold feet over its support for Putin’s reckless military offensive.
On Friday, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang called for a ‘cease fire’ in Ukraine. “Li Keqiang says the situation is worrying and must be stopped from spiralling out of control,” The South China Daily Mail newspaper reported.
Since the hostilities began in Ukraine, China has been Putin’s strongest backer on the world stage. Beijing has refused to recognize the latest U.S. and Western sanctions on Russia, and continues to blame Washington for the Russian aggression.
Less than a month ahead of the Ukraine offensive, President Xi Jinping declared there was “no limits” to China’s relations with Russia. In November, Russia and China agreed to a “road map” for defense cooperation by 2026, creating a de facto military alliance against U.S. and its allies.
China is heavily censoring domestic media coverage and social media postings related to the Ukraine invasion. The Chinese internet regulator, Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), has placed a blanket ban on anti-Russian coverage, instructing “commercial websites, local and self-published media” not to “conduct livestreams or use hashtags” on Ukraine, the BBC reported Saturday.
But now China seems to be feeling the heat for its support for Putin’s adventure. Apart from rising oil and gas prices, Beijing is worried about the its food security. “Ukraine and Russia account for about 30 per cent of the world’s traded wheat,” UK’s Financial Times noted.
China and other Asian counties heavily depend on grain supplies from Russia and Ukraine. “Asian economies … are being hit with food shortages as shipments are cancelled and delivery routes upended” by the Putin’s invasion, The South China Morning Post noted last week.DONATE
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