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Putin Allows Foreigners to Join Army for International Missions | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Turkish soldier stand in a tank driving back to Turkey from the Syrian-Turkish border town of Jarabulus. (AFP)

Moscow – Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an amendment to the military service law that allows foreigners to serve in the Russian army.

The foreigners, serving on a contractual basis, would be allowed to take part in international security missions, said the RBK newspaper.

The daily said that the amendment does not indicate if the fighters would be engaged in missions on Russian territory, meaning that they would be contracted for foreign assignments.

Observers said that Putin’s decision primarily stemmed from the developments in Syria.

A source in Moscow said on condition of anonymity: “The current amendments are aimed at bolstering the Russian military presence in Syria and other regions in the future if the need arises.”

The measure also avoids the deployment of large numbers of Russian troops for fear of a large number of casualties in their ranks in combat missions, it explained.

RBK reported that Russian contractual military personnel are currently deployed in Russia, but the Defense Ministry did not reveal any information about the deployment of foreigners in the war-torn country.

In a related development, the Russian spy Yantar ship sailed to the eastern Mediterranean after crossing the Black Sea straits, reported Turkish sites that monitor the passage of vessels through the Bosphorus strait. It was said that the ship was headed to Victoria Port, but observers stated that that is just a ploy to cover its actual destination.

In 2015, US forces detected the Yantar while marines were carrying out drills at Kings Bay base. The Pentagon said at the time that the vessel was on a spying mission through the use of submersibles.

Russia has meanwhile not yet commented on the Turkish military operation in Syria’s Idlib province even though Turkish officials have stressed that Ankara is coordinating its operations with Moscow.

An informed source in Moscow described Russia’s silence over the issue as “strange.”

Anton Mardasov of the Russian International Affairs Council told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The official authorities do not know how to explain this issue to the public after they had previously said that Russia would counter any foreign force on Syrian territory.”