ST. PETERSBURG, June 21 (RIA Novosti) – At least 600 people from Russia and Europe are fighting for the rebels in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday at a plenary meeting of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
He did not cite a source for the figure. Russia’s Federal Security Service in May said some 200 mercenaries from the former Soviet Union and Europe were fighting in the civil war.
Putin reiterated Russia’s position that arming the rebels in Syria would have an unpredictable effect, noting that a key group in the Syrian opposition, Jabhat al-Nusra, had been designated by the United States as a terrorist organization linked to al-Qaida.
“Why should weapons be supplied to illegal organizations in Syria whose composition is not fully clear to us?” Putin told the forum. “How can weapons be supplied to these oppositionists? Where will they [these weapons] end up as a result? What role will they play?”