Ever since the beginning of the latest war between Ukraine and Russia in which the latter has declared annexation of parts of southern and eastern Ukraine, a repeated line of speculation for those covering the Syrian civil war has been the possibility of deployment Syrian fighters to Ukraine in support of Russia's forces. One policy piece used the idea as a leading hook, and I remember being approached in March by someone working for BBC Arabic who wanted to do work on this matter. A number of reports have since emerged that have claimed the deployment of Syrian fighters and/or advisors to Ukraine in support of the Russian war effort there.
Now, I understand why there would be interest and speculation along these lines. Syrian fighters have emerged on both sides in the war in Libya, and Syrian fighters were also deployed by Turkey in support of Azerbaijan during the latter's war with Armenia. Given Russia's support for the Syrian government during the war in Syria, it might be reasonable to expect that Russia would want the government to 'return the favour' by allowing deployment of Syrian fighters to Ukraine. Some Russian rhetoric early on in the war may also be interpreted as mobilising large numbers of Syrian fighters.
However, it has to be said that in general, no convincing evidence has been produced to show any such deployments. Instead, media stories along these lines have resorted to mere quotations from sources, and either the reliability of those sources cannot be checked, or the information they provide cannot be verified. This contrasts markedly with both the Libyan and Armenia-Azerbaijan conflicts. In those cases, Syrian fighters who went to those areas have offered their testimonies (cf. here), and solid open-source research has confirmed their presence in those places (most notably in the form of geolocation of videos). This is not to say that deployments of Syrian fighters to Ukraine could not happen, but it has to be asked: if these deployments have taken place, why has similar evidence of them not been produced so far?
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