Putin calls in reinforcements: 16,000 Middle Eastern fighters to join Russian invasion of Ukraine

·Breaking News Editor, Yahoo News UK
·4-min read
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting via videolink in Moscow on March 11, 2022. - Russian President on March 11 backed plans to allow volunteers to fight in Ukraine, where he has sent thousands of Russian troops in what he calls a
Vladimir Putin backed plans to allow volunteers from the Middle East to fight in Ukraine. (Getty)

Russia has approved the use of thousands of fighters from the Middle East to join the invasion of Ukraine.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said there were 16,000 volunteers who wanted to come to fight alongside Russian-backed forces in the breakaway Donbass region. One fighter in Iraq reportedly claimed he had been offered $400 a week to sign up.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said they wanted to come “of their own accord, not for money" adding: "We need to give them what they want and help them get to the conflict zone."

Fighters are believed to have been offered $400 (£300) a week to join Russian forces, Nikkei Asia reports.

Ali Jafar Askar, 35, is a member of Iraqi militia Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and told the publication he had been offered the money. He said: "Now is the time to fight imperialism and defeat it."

Mohammed al-Saqir, 40, a member of another Iraqi militia, said he had been offered the same sum.

Read more: Johnson rules out no-fly zone despite Russian hospital strike

KHARKIV, UKRAINE - MARCH 10: Bombed buildings in the residential neighborhood near Kharkiv Metro Station in Kharkiv, Ukraine on March 10, 2022 as Russian attacks continue. (Photo by Andrea Carrubba/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Bombed buildings in the residential neighborhood in Kharki. (Getty)
KHARKIV, UKRAINE - MARCH 09: Effects of the bombing in the center of Kharkiv, Ukraine on March 09, 2022 as Russian attacks continue. (Photo by Andrea Carrubba/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Foreign fighters are reportedly being brought into the Donbass region. (Getty)

While Putin gave the green light to recruit foreign fighters in its invasion of Ukraine, Russian state press agency TASS said they were not considering bringing in Russian volunteers.

A Kremlin spokesperson said: "Sergei Dhoigu mainly talked about those applicants who applied from the Middle East, from Syria. Accordingly, there was no talk of our fellow citizens."

They added they did not have information on whether Russian volunteers could be recruited at a later date.

Meanwhile Ukraine's plea for a no-fly zone above Ukraine has been denied by Nato.

Read more: British public will be asked to take Ukrainian refugees into their homes

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Speaking on Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said bringing in the no-fly zone would cause direct conflict between Russia and Nato.

It comes amid reports that Russia is "re-posturing" for a renewed attack after failing to take control of Ukraine after coming up against fierce resistance.

Prior to the invasion, Russia had stationed around 150,000 troops on the borders surrounding Ukraine. Western intelligence has indicated 100% have been deployed into the embattled nation.

Watch: Russia strikes new cities as Zelenskyy decries 'outright terror' in Mariupol

Russian forces bearing down on Kyiv are regrouping northwest of the Ukrainian capital, satellite pictures showed, with Britain saying Moscow could now be planning an assault on the city within days.

Putin's forces began their assault more than two weeks ago, calling the move a "special military operation" aimed at "de-nazifying" the country.

They also claim it was a response to what it calls genocide by Ukraine against Russian-speakers in the east of the country, claims which have been rejected by the West and Kyiv.

According to reports, Putin had expected to claim Ukraine within a matter of days.

Another heavily pregnant woman is rescued after the bombing in the besieged city of Mariupol (AP)
Another heavily pregnant woman is rescued after the bombing in the besieged city of Mariupol (AP)

Instead, he has caused the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War Two - with over 2.5 million refugees fleeing Ukraine to neighbouring countries.

Ukrainian authorities have claimed 12,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since the fighting began. The figure has not been independently verified with US reports saying it could only be as high as 3,000.

In recent days, Russia has upped attacks on civilian areas while claiming they are only hitting military targets.

On Wednesday, a maternity hospital was bombed in the southern city of Mariupol. Russia falsely claimed the reports were "fake news" and that the unit had been turned into a military centre.

Pictures from the scene showed pregnant women being stretchered out of the destroyed building, with Ukrainian authorities saying the attack had killed three people including a six-year-old girl.

Marianna has given birth to a baby girl, her family have said(AP)
A pregnant women after the attack on Mariupol maternity hospital. (AP)

Mariupol has been under almost constant attack, with its people shut off from basic necessities such as food and water. Attempts at evacuation have also been stalled as Russian troops were accused of targeting the very routes they said would be safe.

On Thursday another attempt failed after Russian shelling prevented a humanitarian convoy reaching the besieged Ukrainian city, local officials said.