Russian President Vladimir Putin orders entry into Ukraine of ‘volunteer’ fighters, as Moscow strikes hit Lutsk and Ivano-Frankiivsk

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his Defence Minister to help would-be foreign fighters “move to the combat zone” in Ukraine and side with Moscow.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia knew of “more than 16,000 applications” from would-be fighters for Moscow in the Middle East. 

He said many of the applications were from people who helped Russia against the Islamic State group, according to a Kremlin transcript.

“[They want] to take part in what they consider a liberation movement,” Mr Shoigu said, on the side of Russia-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.

Since 2015, Russian forces have backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against various groups opposed to his rule, including Islamic State.

Mr Putin told Mr Shoigu that Russia should help would-be volunteers to “move to the combat zone” and contrasted them with what he called foreign “mercenaries” fighting for Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sitting at a table on a video conference call with members of his security council.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attended a meeting with government members, via a video link in Moscow.(Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS)

He also approved the handing over captured Western missile systems to Russian-backed rebel fighters to use against Ukraine.

It came after Mr Shoigu proposed handing over American made anti-tank systems such as Javelin and Stinger to fighters from the rebel regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Russian strikes hit western Ukraine as offensive widens

Russian strikes have hit near airports in western Ukraine, as the military offensive widened. 

Meanwhile, invading troops kept up pressure on the capital Kyiv and the besieged port city of Mariupol.

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Drone footage shows a Ukrainian ambush on a Russian tank column

The air strikes on the Lutsk military airfield, about 100km from the Polish border, left two Ukrainian servicemen dead and six people wounded, according to the leader of the Volyn region, Yuriy Pohulyayko.






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