Around 180 pro-Ukrainian foreign fighters were killed in a Russian strike on Ukrainian training bases according to the Russian Defense Ministry, Russian media reported on Sunday.
“On the morning of March 13, high-precision long-range weapons attacked the training centers of the Ukrainian armed forces in the village of Starichi and at the Yavorovsky military training ground,” Russian Defense Ministry representative Major General Igor Konashenkov said in a briefing, according to RIA.
“As a result of the strike, up to 180 foreign mercenaries and a large consignment of foreign weapons were destroyed,” Konashenkov continued, according to Interfax.
“At these facilities, the Kyiv regime deployed: A point for the training and combat coordination of foreign mercenaries before being sent to the areas of hostilities against Russian military personnel, as well as a storage base for weapons and military equipment coming from foreign countries.”
“The destruction of foreign mercenaries who arrived on the territory of Ukraine will continue,” Konashenkov added, RIA reported.
Russia has repeatedly warned foreign fighters against joining the war. It has said that it will not be responsible for the fighters’ fate, and on March 4, said that foreign fighters will not be treated as lawful combatants.
“I wish to make an official statement that none of the mercenaries the West is sending to Ukraine to fight for the nationalist regime in Kyiv can be considered as combatants in accordance with international humanitarian law or enjoy the status of prisoners of war,” Konashenkov said on March 4, according to Russian media outlet TASS.
“At best, they can expect to be prosecuted as criminals. We are urging all foreign citizens who may have plans to go and fight for Kyiv’s nationalist regime to think a dozen times before getting on the way.”
Ukraine has been actively recruiting foreign fighters during the war.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Monday that 20,000 foreign fighters had already applied to enlist into the foreign legion. Ukraine’s Intelligence Directorate said that the volunteers were from 52 different countries, and were “mostly experienced fighters who have participated in many peacekeeping campaigns around the world.”
A website to guide foreign fighters to enlist with the International Defense Legion of Ukraine was launched last Saturday night by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.
A foreign fighter special forces unit, separate from the International Defense Legion of Ukraine, was announced by the intelligence directorate on Monday. The special forces unit, as of yet unnamed by the Defense Ministry, is already operational and in combat with Russian forces, the ministry claimed.
Russia has also been seeking fighters from abroad, having approved the enlistment of 16,000 Middle East volunteers on Friday.
On Sunday it was alleged by Ukrainian authorities that Russia is training and preparing to bring Libyan and Serbian mercenaries to fight in Ukraine, in addition to the Syrian mercenaries it is already enlisting.
Ukraine claimed that Russia had opened 14 mercenary recruitment centers in Damascus, Aleppo, Hamma, Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, and they are being paid a monthly salary of $300-$600 to fight.