1. Putin says Mid-East volunteers can fight for Russia in Ukraine

    Russian tank in Donetsk region, 2015 file pic
    Image caption: Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine have heavy armour

    President Vladimir Putin has given the go-ahead for volunteers from the Middle East to fight for Russia in 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 Donbas, then we need to give them what they want and help them get to the conflict zone," he told Russia's Security Council.

    Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told him there were 16,000 volunteers in the Middle East who were ready to come to Donbas.

    There has been speculation that battle-hardened Syrian government troops could be paid by Russia to fight in Ukraine. Russia's air force and some specialised units have played a key role backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    Earlier the Ukrainian government said it was forming a force of foreign volunteers willing to help it fight the Russian army.

    President Putin told the Council that "Western sponsors" were recruiting mercenaries for the Ukraine conflict "openly, violating all the norms of international law".

    He also agreed with Shoigu's suggestion that captured Western arms - notably Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles - could be handed over to the pro-Russian fighters in Donbas.