Report: Russian 'Volunteers' From Ukraine Conflict Could Join the War in Syria

Russian 'volunteers' could head to Syria
Pro-Russian rebels guard a check point on a road outside the eastern Ukrainian town of Lugansk, Ukraine, July 12. A senior Russian lawmaker has said that Russian "volunteers" who have previously fought in Ukraine may travel to Syria to fight alongside Assad's regime forces. Kazbek Basayev/Reuters

Russian "volunteers," including some who may have fought in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, could travel to Syria to help forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, a senior Russian lawmaker told the independent news agency Interfax on Monday.

"Most likely a formation of Russian volunteers, participants in armed conflicts, will emerge in the ranks of the Syrian army," Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov, who heads the Russian parliament's defense committee, told the news agency.

The Russian government has repeatedly said that it is not planning to launch a ground operation in Syria and is only using airstrikes to combat ISIS and other groups fighting against Assad. On Monday, the speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament, Valentina Matviyenko reiterated that point.

Moscow says it has not sent servicemen or military equipment in any official capacity to Ukraine during the ongoing conflict in the east, despite evidence to the contrary, and insists that any Russian soldiers in Ukraine are volunteers. One Russian soldier, who was captured in May by Ukrainian forces in the Luhansk region, said he would consider suing the Ministry of Defense after Moscow declared that he had been dismissed from the military months before he entered Ukraine.

Komoyedov told Interfax that Russian volunteers in Syria could make a decent living by fighting for Assad, although he did not provide specifics. "What draws volunteers there besides their ideas?" he said. "Of course it is probably money."