Russian strike a ‘reminder’ for foreign fighters in Ukraine – expert
The Russian military’s report on the deaths of French “mercenaries” in a long-range strike in Ukraine on Tuesday evening highlights that Moscow considers foreign combatants legitimate targets, political consultant Earl Rasmussen has told RT.
In its briefings on the Ukraine conflict, the Russian Defense Ministry regularly reports attacking places where “Ukrainian military troops, nationalist formations and foreign mercenaries” congregate, without detailing the nationalities of the non-Ukrainians in question.
In this week’s strike on Kharkov, which was mentioned in a briefing on Wednesday, the ministry said French citizens comprised the core of the targeted force. The report claimed that over 60 troops were killed, while more than 20 had to be taken to a hospital after the attack.
Rasmussen, executive vice president of the Eurasia Center, noted that the Russian announcement did not make clear what roles the foreigners in Kharkov had played. They could have been military advisers or weapons specialists acting discreetly on behalf of their governments, regular frontline fighters, or potentially hired guns acting on “ultra-nationalist desires.”
“It shows that Russia will strike at mercenaries’ facilities and treat them just like regular members of the Ukrainian armed forces,” he said.
The same day of the strike, French President Emmanuel Macron declared that his country could not allow Russia to win the conflict, and pledged further arms shipments to Ukraine, including 40 SCALP air-launched cruise missiles. According to French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu, the weapons are to be transferred in the first half of this year.
Last month Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu estimated at a department meeting that more than 5,800 foreign fighters had been killed on the Ukrainian side, since the hostilities started in February 2022. He named Poland, the US, and the UK as the largest contributors to Kiev’s bid to enroll foreigners in its war effort.
An update in early January claimed the total number of killed foreigners had surpassed 5,900, out of over 13,500 who came to Ukraine to fight. More than 5,600 of those people had already left Kiev’s ranks, the ministry claimed.