In a late-night address to the people of Ukraine, President Zelensky claimed that many Russian prisoners of war do not want to return to their home country. He also claimed that many of them are “not being taken back”, while some have “received death notices”, despite being alive in captivity. He said: “More Russian conscripts have been taken prisoner of war.
“Among them, there are those who refuse to return to Russia.
“There are many who are not even talked about in Russia, who are not being taken back.
“Families of some soldiers have received death notices, although they are in captivity and alive.”
Mr Zelensky also issued a warning to those considering joining the Russian army.
He said: “It will be the worst decision of your life.
“Long life is better than the money that they offer for a short one.”
The US military has estimated that between 5,000 and 6,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since the invasion began on February 24.
But Ukrainian armed forces have reported that the number is more than 13,500.
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According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Putin has begun recruiting Syrian troops.
The organisation reported that 40,000 fighters have so far signed up to fight for Russia.
It also claimed that a recruitment notice had been sent to the Al-Qatarji militia, a group that had previously been sanctioned by the US for acting as an intermediary between the Assad regime and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Responding to the claims, an aide to Mr Zelensky, Mykhailo Podolyak said: “Russia is hiring ISIS.”
The recruits are reportedly being paid between $1,500 and $2,500 for their services, the SOHR said.
But the figures have not yet been confirmed.
Mr Zelensky described the Syrian recruits as “thugs”.