Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the green light on Friday to bring in thousands of fighters from the Middle East to fight against Ukraine.
At a meeting of Russia's Security Council, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said there were 16,000 volunteers in the Middle East who were ready to come to fight with Russian-backed forces in the breakaway Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.
"If you see that there are these people who want of their own accord, not for money, to come to help the people living in Donbass, then we need to give them what they want and help them get to the conflict zone," Putin said.
Shoigu also proposed that Western-made Javelin and Stinger missiles that were captured by the Russian army in Ukraine should be handed over to Donbass forces.
"As to the delivery of arms, especially Western-made ones which have fallen into the hands of the Russian army – of course, I support the possibility of giving these to the military units of the Lugansk and Donetsk people's republics," Putin said.
"Please do this," he told Shoigu.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 soon after Putin recognised the breakaway territories as independent states, in an action condemned internationally as illegal.
Russia says its "special military operation" in Ukraine was a forced response to what it calls genocide by Ukraine against Russian speakers in the east of the country – a pretext rejected by Kyiv and the West as baseless war propaganda.
Shoigu said the Russian military planned to strengthen its Western border after what he said was an increase in Western military units on Russia's border.