Russia-Ukraine War: Russia Force Sending Nigerian, Other African Students To War For Visa Renewal- Report

Russia-Ukraine War: Russia Force Sending Nigerian, Other African Students To War For Visa Renewal- Report

3 days ago
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Reports have surfaced that Russia is allegedly coercing thousands of migrants and foreign students to fight alongside its troops in the ongoing war against Ukraine in exchange for visa renewals.

This claim, reported by Bloomberg, suggests that the Kremlin is using tactics initially deployed by the Wagner mercenary group to bolster its military manpower.

European officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed that Russia has been threatening to withhold visa extensions from African students and young workers unless they agree to enlist. Additionally, Moscow has reportedly been enlisting convicts from its prisons and detaining Africans on work visas, forcing them to choose between deportation or military service. “Some individuals have managed to bribe officials to stay in the country without being forced into the military,” said one European official.

This coercive practice is not new, according to another European official. They explained that Russia has been sending migrants and students into battle under duress since the early stages of the war. These conscripts face particularly high casualty rates, as they are often deployed in dangerous offensive operations to shield more experienced units.

A spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry did not respond to requests for comment on these allegations.

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Ukrainian intelligence reports indicate that Russia has engaged in a global recruitment drive, seeking foreign mercenaries from at least 21 countries, including several African nations. Recruitment campaigns promise lucrative signing bonuses and salaries for those willing to become contract soldiers.

Migrants and students who initially sought employment in Russia have been targeted, and in some cases, lured with false job offers before being forced into military training and deployment.

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“Russia’s ability to mobilize large numbers of troops could significantly impact the war’s dynamics,” said a senior Ukrainian official. However, despite this potential, Russian forces have only made slow progress in northeastern Ukraine and have suffered heavy losses.

The UK Ministry of Defence reported that Russia lost over 1,200 personnel per day in May, marking the highest casualty rate since the war began. The UK estimates that around 500,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded since the invasion started, although Bloomberg could not independently verify these figures.

At a recent meeting with foreign media in St. Petersburg, President Vladimir Putin suggested that around 10,000 Russian troops are being killed or wounded each month, claiming Ukrainian losses are five times higher. Meanwhile, Russia has intensified its bombing campaign against Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, which Western officials believe is an attempt to make the city uninhabitable.

Despite the heavy toll, Putin has resisted a full-scale mobilization, maintaining public support through voluntary recruitment drives that have attracted tens of thousands of volunteers. Nonetheless, the Russian military’s reliance on foreign and coerced fighters has raised significant concerns.

Earlier this year, the Nepalese government acknowledged that around 400 young Nepali men had been recruited by Russia, with more likely enlisting without official knowledge. Changes in recruitment policies by other nations, such as India’s decision to stop recruiting Nepalese Gurkhas, may have driven these young men to seek opportunities in Russia.

A senior Ukrainian official noted an increase in the number of foreign fighters among captured prisoners, particularly Africans and Nepalis. “We have observed a notable rise in foreign combatants on the battlefield,” the official said.

Western allies of Ukraine are considering sharing intelligence on Russia’s recruitment practices with affected countries. The Group of Seven (G7) nations, set to meet in Italy next week, have been encouraging Global South countries to support Ukraine. However, many of these nations have remained neutral, while their populations have been targeted by Moscow’s disinformation campaigns.

Last year, Reuters reported that the Wagner mercenary group had recruited several African citizens, including men from Tanzania, Zambia, and the Ivory Coast, by enlisting convicts from Russian prisons for its operations in Ukraine.

Yevgeny Primakov, head of Rossotrudnichestvo, an organization promoting Russian knowledge abroad, stated, “There are currently 35,000-37,000 African students in Russia. Every year, we offer free education to about 6,500 African students.” This statement was made at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, underscoring Russia’s continued efforts to engage with African nations amid the ongoing conflict.

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