Russia is taking steps to recognize Russian mercenary forces fighting in Syria and Ukraine. The Russian government is considering a new law on short-team military service in specific wars, the Moscow Times reported Monday.
Russian law currently only allows short-team military contracts for a minimum of six-to-twelve months in emergency situations, such as natural disasters, restoring constitutional order or peacekeeping missions. Citing a "changing military-political situation," the new law would allow soldiers for hire to work for shorter terms to address "the suppression of international terrorist activities beyond the territory of Russia."
Russia insists it does not have troops in Syria and Ukraine. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in February that foreign ground troops in Syria could result in a "world war."
The new law would allow Russian mercenaries already fighting abroad to obtain compensation for their families if they die in combat. Contract soldiers working in Syria and Ukraine have complained to reporters in the past that they must work under verbal agreements since their service is illegal under Russian law.
"Most people who go there for the money end up dead. Those who fight for ideals, to fight against the Americans, American special-forces, some ideology - they have a better chance of survival," a soldier working in Syria told Sky News in August.
Soldiers claimed they are paid roughly $3,900 a month to fight the Islamic State group in Syria. Sky News estimated 500 to 600 Russians had died in Syria, compared with the official Russian casualty count of 19.
Governments and companies around the world use mercenary soldiers to carry out conflicts and secure important territories. Some of the most notorious private war groups include Triple Canopy, which includes former U.S. Army Special Forces veterans and Delta Force personnel, and Academi, the private security firm formerly known as Blackwater that was embroiled in several controversies, including the wrongful death of 17 Iraqi citizens.