40,000 Syrians Reportedly Signed Up to Fight for Russia Have yet to Arrive

Russia has enlisted over 40,000 Syrian military personnel to fight against Ukraine, according to reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR)—a Syrian non-governmental group.

Following the Ukrainian Embassy reporting nearly 3,000 Americans signed up to join the International Legion of Territorial Defense—a coalition aimed to help strengthen Ukraine's military against Moscow's invasion—Russia has also reached out to neighboring countries for reinforcements.

"So far, more than 40,000 fighters have signed up for enlistment," said SOHR, noting that these are not "volunteers" but have signed up on promises to receive "a salary and privileges."

According to a publication based in Deir Ezzor, Syria, Russia has offered military personnel monthly salaries from $200 to $300 USD for six months, including other "privileges."

Last week, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) warned that Russia was recruiting Syrian mercenaries to join the battle in Ukraine.

Syrian soldier
A fighter with the "National Front for Liberation" Syrian rebel coalition poses for a photo in the snow in the mountainous northern countryside of Syria's northwestern Latakia province on March 14, 2022. Getty Images

"We find it noteworthy that [Russian President Vladimir Putin] believes that he needs to rely on foreign fighters to supplement what is a very significant commitment of combat power inside Ukraine as it is," a DOD spokesperson said, adding that Russia is turning "frustrated by a stiff Ukrainian resistance," and noted that Russians haven't made much progress in recent days.

"These additional forces are going to be positioned to respond to the current security environment in light of Russia's renewed aggression against Ukraine and to reinforce deterrence and defensive capabilities of NATO, particularly the eastern flank, and we're going to adjust the posture as conditions evolve," the official said.

In 2015, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad faced a challenge to his authority by pro-democracy protesters demanding an end to authoritarian practices, according to Britannica. Assad reportedly used violence to suppress the demonstrations.

Russia then took an active role in the conflict, deploying troops to Syria. In September 2015, Russia launched its first airstrikes in Syria to support Assad's struggling troops, enabling the regime to recapture much of the country, according to Brittanica.

Russia established the Humaymim Air Base in the Latakia province of Syria while upgrading its naval base in Tartous in the neighboring province of the same name, which is Russia's only foreign naval base. Underscoring the importance of these assets, in 2017, the Kremlin signed a 49-year lease with the Assad regime for the use of Tartous, according to Arab Center Washington DC.

Newsweek reached out to the U.S. embassy in Syria for comment.