By Haider Abbas
The Russia-Ukraine war, has entered into its second year, with no signs of abatement as the war rages with non-stop fighting. Ever since the war erupted, US, NATO and the entire West has rallied for Ukraine with strictest sanctions on Russia, while military and economic aid to Ukraine. Within a fortnight when the war had broken, on February 24, 2022, there were reports, in US media (WSJ) , that Russia had deployed Syrian skilled and urban combat against Ukraine. The fighters from Syria had come to ‘pay-back’ to Russia, as the Syrian regime of Bashhar Al Asad could survive, in the last decade, solely due to Russian (and Iranian) support.
After one year of war there is now news that Russia is recruiting Arabs to fight against Ukraine. The report published in The Media Line 1 on February 27, tells as to how Palestinians are getting enlisted from Lebanon to fight for Russia. As per this report, ‘ Lebanon government security source tells that young Palestinian men are being paid 350 USD per month to enlist in the Russian military, while elite Syrian troops are also being recruited in a display of loyalty for aid in the civil war . The recruitment effort is being carried out by activists affiliated with the Palestinian embassy in Lebanon. The Lebanese security source indicated that the recruitment of Palestinians and others is being carried out in coordination with the Lebanese-based, Iranian-backed Hezbollah organization. Hezbollah is also actively enlisting young supporters, including those skilled in operating drones and individuals with expertise in guerrilla warfare in urban areas, to assist the Russians in the war in Ukraine.’ Hezbollah is an Iranian backed organization fighting against Israel. Israel beyond any doubt stands with Ukraine.
The Syrian direct involvement along with Iran, which it is claimed has supplied kamikaze drones to Russia, while Iran denies it, can well be understood owing to geo-politics, but why have the Palestinians joined the fray? Perhaps, the answer lies in the 14-days war between Israel and Hamas, of May 7-21, 2021! As while the whole Arab world looked as a mute spectator, UAE had already embraced Israel, there was no pressure on Israel whatsoever ,as Israel enjoyed unstinted US support, that Russian President Vladimir Putin entered the cauldron as Russia threatened to air-strike Israel, if there was any further civilian casualty from the Palestine side. The Israel-Hamas war ended in a ceasefire. This is what the Palestinians want to reciprocate as a ‘return-gesture’ to Russia.
Another aspect which deserves a mention is that Chechen Muslim fighters have been in the frontline from the Russian side, right from the onset of the war. Chechen leader Ramzan Qadirrov has struck side-by-side with Putin, which has given Putin great victories and inroads into Ukraine. With now Arab fighters also in alignment with the Russian, the religious angst against Muslims, from the Ukrainian side is also quite understandable. A new low, therefore also happened on March 16, as a video appeared in which Ukrainian soldiers are found tearing and burning the pages of the Holy Quran. This led to worldwide condemnation, but the Chechen warlord Qadirov came forward to put a bounty on the head of those involved in the act. The desecration of Holy scripture of Islam, obviously triggered anger inside the Muslim soldiers of the army of Qadirov, which made Qadirov announce ‘a reward of 5 million rubles ( 64950 USD) for eliminating these scums. The bounty would be twice if the desecrators are captured alive. Whenever it happens, today, tomorrow, in a year-the money will be waiting. No matter who does it: A platoon, a group, a sole person, a neighbour in the trench, the money will be handed over in full. Chechens won’t let anyone treat the sacred text of Islam with such disrespect. The footage is the representative of Ukrainian State’s ideology and illustrates its fascist-satanic nature’, informed Daily Sun 2 on March 19. He even expressed scorn on the “so-called Muslims who are allegedly fighting as part of the Ukrainian armed forces.” Such people can have no excuse for siding with the “enemies of Allah,” he concluded. However, Ukrainian army and government, for the namesake, has denied that country’s army was involved. In a statement, which of course shows more contempt, it has referred, that the soldiers shown in the video speak broken Ukrainian language, cut pork on Quran, are in fact Russians, and the act is to discredit Ukraine. But, no where did Ukraine condemn the act itself!
Ukraine on the contrary is not shying from putting every nefarious tactic to use as on March 28, during the battle for Bakhmut, ‘several videos from the special military operation zone emerged. In one such video posted on Telegram, reported The Hindustan Times 3, a Ukrainian tank can be seen using a mosque as cover while engaging in combat with Russian troops. The video shows Kyiv’s forces firing from behind the mosque building. Pro-Russia voices claim that it is a plot by Kyiv against Moscow as the incident can be misused to defame the Kremlin if the mosque gets bombed in the crossfire’. How will Ukraine defend this, particularly, in the backdrop, of the Holy Quran burring, only a few days back!
Video grab of a Ukraine tank firing from behind the mosque. Courtesy: Dan@Danspiun Twitter
The Ukraine strategy to target Russians from behind the mosque is to inflict damage to Russian and in retaliation from Russian, show a damaged mosque to defame Russia. But, owing to social-media such designs have proved to be counter-productive for Ukraine. All the plots of Ukraine, fanned by Western media, are being punctured solely due to social-media platforms, or else the falsehood was only to have survived and fed to the world. Earlier on March 12 , Russians had bombed a mosque in Mariupol, as was declared by the Ukraine, that “the mosque of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his wife Roxolana (Hurrem Sultan) in Mariupol was shelled by Russian invaders. This had been contradicted by ‘the president of Sultan Suleiman Mosque Foundation who denied reports that the Turkish mosque in Mariupol sheltering at least 80 civilians had been shelled by Russian forces. “A bomb dropped 700 metres away from the mosque, but we are fine,” Ismail Hacioglu told Turkish News Portal, informed Middle East Eye 4.
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and writes on international politics.