(Photo credit: South Front)
Several prisoners belonging to the extremist militant group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda, were released in exchange for being sent to fight alongside the Ukrainian army against Russia, according to a report from Sputnik Arabic on 7 April.
According to local sources, 30 prisoners were released from jails in Idlib governorate under the direct orders of the group’s leader, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, following a meeting with HTS and Turkish intelligence officials.
The release of the prisoners was sought on condition their transfer to Ukraine to fight against Russian armed forces would be guaranteed ‘with certainty’.
Following their release, the militants were allegedly brought to the Syrian-Turkish border where they entered Turkish territory and from there transferred to Ukraine.
HTS militants first arrived in Ukraine via Turkey on 8 March, with a reported 450 militants making up this first wave of transfers.
A second batch of extremist fighters were sent to Ukraine on 26 March, under the direct supervision of Al-Julani.
Foreign mercenaries from around the globe have joined in on the side of Ukraine as President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded for global assistance in the wake of Russia’s special military operation.
President Zelensky has also used similar tactics of releasing Ukrainian prisoners from jails in order to join the Ukrainian armed forces.
Earlier this month, the Russian Federal Security Service arrested 10 people for allegedly working with HTS and setting up financing networks for the extremist militant group.
The Kremlin has expressed concerns over the growing number of ISIS and HTS members reportedly making their way to Ukraine.
Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine on 24 February after responding to the call for assistance by the newly-independent republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.