FIVE Zimbabwean mercenaries are fighting for Ukraine, according to latest data released by the Russia Defence ministry, with one said to have since been killed on the battle field.

But the figure could be more, reaching even 10, according to security sources, with three of them said to be former soldiers back home in Zimbabwe.

In a statement, the ministry said since Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the total number of foreign mercenaries who have arrived in Ukraine has reached 13 387.

The Russian army claims it has eliminated 5 962 of them.

“The Russian Ministry of Defence continues to track and personally record all foreign mercenaries who have arrived in Ukraine to participate in combat action,” the statement said.

The ministry noted that 2 960 mercenaries arrived in Ukraine from Poland.

The US was second with 1 113 “soldiers of fortune” and Georgia third with 1 042.

Many other mercenaries also come from Canada, the United Kingdom, Romania, France and Germany, the ministry said.

A total of 249 mercenaries from 14 countries in Africa arrived in Ukraine since the war began two years ago, with 103 having been killed.

Nigeria tops the list with 97, followed by Algeria with 60 and South Africa with 35.

Zimbabwe and South Africa are the only countries in southern Africa with mercenaries operating in Ukraine.

Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs ministry has yet to comment on the reports.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who openly declared his support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is a close ally of Russian President Vlamir Putin and Harare has always sided with the Kremlin on key international issues discussed at the United Nations General Assembly.

Speaking on the sidelines of the two-day Russia-Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum in St Petersburg last year, Mnangagwa became the second African leader to openly side with Russia.

“Zimbabwe is in solidarity with the Russian Federation in your country’s special military operation in Ukraine,” he said.

In 2023, the government took delivery of a specialised presidential medical helicopter and an ambulance from Russia.

Political analyst Pardon Taodzera said the participation of Zimbabwean mercenaries in Ukraine is worrying since Zimbabwe is known to be pro-Russian.

“The involvement of Zimbabwean mercenaries in the Ukrainian conflict is a concerning development that underscores the complex and multi-faceted nature of modern warfare. It highlights the ability of conflicts in one region to attract participants from across the globe, illustrating the interconnectedness of global security dynamics,” he said.

“The emergence of Zimbabwean mercenaries in Ukraine raises questions about the motivations and interests driving their participation.

“It suggests that non-State actors, motivated by a variety of factors including financial gain and ideological beliefs, are playing an increasingly significant role in shaping the course of conflicts around the world.”

Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Yevgeny Uspensky said the global body should act on the issue of international mercenaries operating in Ukraine.

“The attention of [the official representative of UN secretary-general Stephane] Dujarric and the entire UN Secretariat has been drawn to statistics showing the participation of foreign mercenaries in hostilities on the side of the Kiev regime.

“The data was published by the Defence ministry in official UN languages — Russian and English. It will be impossible to pretend ignorance or argue that they ‘haven’t seen’ it,” he wrote on his Telegram channel.

According to the UN, more than 14 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes at some point in the two years since Russia’s invasion.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration recently said nearly 6,5 million people are now living outside the country as refugees.

In its latest report, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said it has recorded 10 582 civilian deaths since February 2022.

It had also verified that 19 875 civilians had been wounded. — NewsDay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *