Syrian regime forces
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday approved plans to recruit 16,000 fighters from the Middle East to take part in the war in Ukraine.
Dozens of men in camouflage uniforms, holding Kalashnikov assault rifles and waving pro-Russian banners, appeared in video footage that Russia’s Defense Ministry said was a gathering of soldiers in Syria ready to join the Ukraine conflict.
“If you see that there are people who want of their own accord — not for money — to come to help … then we need to give them what they want and help them get to the conflict zone,” Putin told Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu at a security council meeting in Moscow.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country was battling an enemy “who collects reservists and conscripts from all over Russia to throw them into the hell of war, who came up with the idea of bringing in mercenaries against our people, thugs from Syria.”
Presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said the move was a sign of the Russian army’s weakness. “Where’s the powerful Russian army if they can’t get by without Syrians?” he said. “If they want us also to kill 16,000 Syrians, let them come.”
On the ground in Ukraine, Russian forces bearing down on Kyiv were regrouping northwest of the capital, a Russian airstrike hit a psychiatric hospital near the eastern town of Izyum, and four people died in an attack on an airfield in the city of Lutsk — Russia’s first strike in western Ukraine.
Russia has been pounding Ukraine’s cities while its main attack force north of Kyiv has been stalled on roads since the invasion began on Feb. 24, having failed in what military analysts say was an initial plan for a lightning assault.
Satellite images showed Russian armored vehicle units maneuvering in and through towns close to an airport on Kyiv’s northwest outskirts.
Other elements had repositioned near the settlement of Lubyanka just to the north, with artillery howitzers being towed into firing positions.
“Russia is probably seeking to reset and re-posture its forces for renewed offensive activity in the coming days,” Britain’s Ministry of Defense said. “This will probably include operations against Kyiv.” It said Russian ground forces were still making only limited progress, hampered by logistical issues and Ukrainian resistance.
Zelensky said Ukraine had “already reached a strategic turning point” in the conflict. “It is impossible to say how many days we still have to free Ukrainian land. But we can say we will do it,” he said.
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