Russia sending Nigerians, other African students to war for visa renewal – Report

Russia is reportedly compelling thousands of migrants and foreign students, including Nigerians and other Africans, to join its military efforts in Ukraine in exchange for visa renewals, according to a Bloomberg report.

Russia sending Nigerians, other African students to war for visa renewal – Report

European officials allege that the Kremlin is resorting to tactics previously used by the Wagner mercenary group to bolster its military ranks. They claim that Russia has been threatening to deny visa extensions to African students and young workers unless they agree to enlist in the military.

Enlisting Vulnerable Populations

The report reveals that Russia has also been recruiting convicts from its prisons. Additionally, some Africans residing in Russia on work visas have been detained and given the grim choice between deportation or military service. One European official noted that some individuals managed to bribe their way out of military service while staying in the country.

High Casualty Rates Among Coerced Soldiers

The practice of deploying migrants and students under pressure dates back to earlier stages of the war, resulting in disproportionately high casualty rates among these troops. They are often sent on high-risk missions to protect more experienced units, according to another European official.

Lack of Official Response

A spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry did not respond to inquiries for comments on these allegations.

Global Recruitment Drive

Reports from Ukrainian intelligence suggest that Russia has been conducting a global recruitment campaign to enlist foreign mercenaries from at least 21 countries, including several African nations. The recruitment efforts promise attractive signing bonuses and salaries to entice individuals to become contract soldiers. Recruiters have targeted migrants and students, sometimes luring them with job offers before coercing them into military service.

Strategic Implications

This strategy of mass mobilization could play a crucial role in the conflict as President Vladimir Putin attempts to leverage a shift in momentum. Despite these efforts, Russian forces have only made slow advances in northeastern Ukraine and have faced significant losses. The UK Ministry of Defence reported that Russia suffered its highest casualty rate of the war in May, losing over 1,200 soldiers daily. Since the invasion began, an estimated 500,000 Russian personnel have been killed or wounded. These figures, however, remain unverified by Bloomberg.

Putin’s Statements and Military Strategy

In a recent meeting with foreign media in St. Petersburg, Putin suggested that Russia is losing approximately 10,000 troops each month, while claiming Ukrainian losses are five times higher. Despite the lack of a significant breakthrough on the battlefield, Russia has intensified its bombing campaign against Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, aiming to make it uninhabitable, according to Western officials.

Recruitment Without Full Mobilization

To sustain public support, Putin has avoided a full-scale mobilization, relying instead on voluntary recruitment drives that have attracted tens of thousands of individuals. The government of Nepal acknowledged that around 400 Nepali men have been recruited by Russia, with likely more unaccounted for, following India’s cessation of recruiting Nepalese Gurkhas for its army.

Increase in Foreign Prisoners of War

A senior Ukrainian official reported an increase in the number of foreign fighters among captured Russian soldiers, with Africans and Nepalis being particularly common. Some of Ukraine’s allies are considering sharing their intelligence on these captured fighters with the affected countries.

Global South’s Neutral Stance and Moscow’s Influence

The Group of Seven (G7) nations, preparing for a summit in Italy next week, have been encouraging countries from the Global South to support Ukraine. However, many of these countries have maintained neutrality and have been targeted by Moscow’s disinformation campaigns.

Wagner Group’s Recruitment Efforts

Reuters previously reported that the Wagner mercenary group had recruited several African citizens as part of its efforts to enlist convicts from Russian prisons for the conflict in Ukraine. This included individuals from Tanzania, Zambia, and the Ivory Coast.

African Students in Russia

There are currently between 35,000 and 37,000 African students studying in Russia, according to Yevgeny Primakov, head of Rossotrudnichestvo, an organization dedicated to promoting Russian knowledge abroad. Primakov noted that about 6,500 African students are enrolled in Russian institutions annually with scholarships.

These revelations highlight the dire circumstances faced by many migrants and foreign students in Russia, who are being coerced into fighting in a conflict far from their homes and aspirations.

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