Putin said Russia would recruit volunteer warriors from the Middle East against Ukraine.

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin granted the go-ahead for up to 16,000 volunteers from the Middle East to fight alongside Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine, doubling down on an invasion that the West claims is losing steam.

The action, which comes little over two weeks after Putin launched the assault, permits Russia to deploy battle-hardened mercenaries from battlefields like Syria without risking more Russian military losses.

At a meeting of Russia’s Security Council, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu stated that 16,000 volunteers in the Middle East were ready to fight with Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine’s separatist Donbass area.

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