Video footage emerged on social media on Monday that appears to suggest Turkish mercenaries are fighting in Ukraine on behalf of Russia. Analysts, however, were quick to note that the video is likely purposely designed to be misleading.
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) October 17, 2022
Also, we state up front that 19FortyFive has been unable to prove that the video is real or not despite asking many experts in the field on this matter.
The clip, which was shared by Eastern European media outlet NEXTA, shows two soldiers speaking Turkish and wearing full military gear. The men are surrounded by other mercenaries in the same gear, while the two men who feature the most in the video can be seen wearing a Turkish flag patch and holding a Turkish flag.
“Turkish mercenaries were notices in Putin’s Z-army,” NEXTA reported.
Is this True?
While it could well be true that the two men in the video are in fact Turkish, it doesn’t mean that Turkey has sent soldiers to Ukraine to assist the Russians. If they are mercenaries, meaning they would be privately contracted, they almost certainly are not acting in an official action endorsed by the Turkish government.
That means it’s possible the two men are Turkish soldiers who chose to travel to Russia or Ukraine to assist with the war effort of their own accord. It’s also possible that the men are not actually Turkish.
Reporter Ali Mustafa responded to the video on Twitter, claiming that it was a clear attempt at spreading disinformation.
“obvious Russia-Kadryovite disinformation that aims to pass off Chechens, speaking Turkish in thick accents holding Turkish flags, as Turkish mercenaries – try harder next time Kadyrov,” Mustafa said.
obvious Russia-Kadryovite disinformation that aims to pass off Chechens, speaking Turkish in thick accents holding Turkish flags, as Turkish mercenaries – try harder next time Kadyrov https://t.co/RAfKdf95Op
— علی مصطفی | Ali Mustafa (@Ali_Mustafa) October 17, 2022
Others suggested that the men could have been Meskhetian Turks, also known as Ahıska Turks, who are ethnically Turkish but who live in Russia.
Why It Matters
While almost certainly unlikely, if it were the case that the two men seen in the video were Turkish soldiers fighting on behalf of Turkey, it would have enormous implications.
Since the beginning of the invasion, Turkey more than any other NATO state has worked to de-escalate the conflict and use diplomacy to avoid war. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to push the Russian president to withdraw his soldiers and sit down at the negotiating table with Ukraine, and only last week, Vladimir Putin thanked the Turkish leader for his efforts.
Putin said that Erdogan had “played a significant role in a number of issues, including the exchanges” of war prisoners. He also said that Russia is “grateful” for his personal involvement.
“He was an active participant in reaching a deal on the export of grain (from Ukraine). This grain goes to the poorest countries or goes in a minimum amount. We discussed this during negotiations yesterday. He said it is necessary to structure flows so that they go to the poorest countries,” the Russian president also said.
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If the soldiers were acting on behalf of the Turkish government and military, therefore, it would not only destroy any good-faith diplomatic negotiations between Russia and Turkey, but would also drag NATO allies into the war.
It’s clear that Turkey would not have deployed soldiers to fight in Ukraine, and that the men seen in the video were not acting in an official capacity or representing Turkey.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.