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EU sanctions Syrians for recruiting mercenaries to fight for Russia in Ukraine

The list includes allies of President Bashar al-Assad and two private security firms allegedly linked to the Russian mercenary firm Wagner
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (C) praying at a mosque in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, on 9 July 2022 (AFP)

The European Union has officially sanctioned 10 Syrians over their alleged recruitment of mercenaries on behalf of Russia to fight in the Ukraine war.

The sanctions, now published in the official EU journal, include asset freezes and visa bans

Those on the list include the Syrian business tycoon, Issam Shammout, an ally of President Bashar al-Assar and owner of Cham Wings Airlines. It's just been one day since the EU lifted its sanctions on the airline, imposed in December after it was accused by the EU of flying people to Belarus so they could cross the bloc's external borders.

Those sanctioned on Thursday also include Syrian army colonel Saleh al-Abdullah, who is accused of recruiting soldiers from his 16th Brigade, which operated alongside Russian forces in Syria, to fight in Ukraine.

Muhammad al-Salti, the commander of the Palestine Liberation Army, a Syrian government-backed force, was said to be "engaged in the recruitment of Palestinians to fight in Ukraine alongside Russia".

Two private security companies, Sanad Protection and Security Services and the al-Sayyad Company for Guarding and Protection Services, nicknamed the "ISIS Hunters", were also hit with sanctions.

The EU says that Sanad is supervised by the Russian mercenary firm Wagner and protects Russian business interests in Syria, including oil, gas and phosphate extraction.

The al-Sayyad Company is also linked to Wagner and is accused of being "active in the recruitment of Syrian mercenaries to Libya and Ukraine".