Russia Not Enlisting Nigerians, Other Africans To War In Exchange For Visa Renewal – FG

Ukrainian servicemen ride on armoured personnel carriers (APC) on a road toward Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on July 1, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Genya SAVILOV / AFP)

The Federal Government has refuted media accusations that Russia is purportedly sending thousands of migrants and international students to fight alongside its troops in the conflict with Ukraine in exchange for visa renewal.

According to officials acquainted with the situation, Russia has threatened not to extend visas to African students and young workers unless they agree to join the military.

However, the federal government has denied the reports, claiming that it is in communication with Nigerians in the European country.

“The attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been drawn to news articles published by several Nigerian media outlets on Monday 10th June 2024 informing the public that the Russian Government is engaging Nigerian and other African students to participate in the ongoing war with Ukraine with the promise of visa renewals,” the statement read.

“The Ministry wishes to inform that the Nigerian Embassy in Moscow is in close communication with the executives of the Nigerian Students Association in Moscow, Russia and there has not been any reported case of conscription of Nigerian students nor indeed of other African students to fight in the aforementioned war. The newspaper reports are therefore false and misleading and should therefore be disregarded.

“The Ministry wishes to seize this occasion to appeal to media outlets to exercise due diligence in the line of duty by verifying information at their disposal before releasing it to the public.”

Russia Keeps Mum

Moscow has also been enlisting prisoners from Russian prisons, and some Africans in Russia on work visas have been imprisoned and forced to choose between deportation and combat, according to one European diplomat. Some of those individuals were able to pay officials in order to remain in the country while avoiding military service, according to the official, who, like the others listed, spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Another European official said Russia’s habit of forcing migrants and students into fighting stretches back earlier in the war. These troops have particularly high death rates because they are increasingly being used in riskier offensive maneuvers to protect more highly trained units, according to the official.

A representative for the Russian Foreign Ministry did not respond to an email requesting comment.

According to sources quoting Ukrainian intelligence, Russia has launched a global recruitment drive to hire foreign mercenaries in at least 21 countries, including numerous African states. Army recruitment operations provide generous signing incentives and salaries to those who will serve as contract soldiers. Recruiters have also targeted migrants and students who had previously sought jobs in Russia, and in some cases, have enticed others with promises of lucrative work before forcing them to train and deploy to the front lines.

Russia’s ability to mobilize many more troops may become a crucial element in the battle as President Vladimir Putin looks to capitalize on a shift in momentum this year.

For the time being, however, his forces are making poor progress in northeastern Ukraine and suffering terrible losses, despite a Ukrainian personnel and ammunition shortfall.

The Russian military lost more than 1,200 personnel a day in May, according to the UK Ministry of Defence, the highest casualty rate in the war. According to estimates from the United Kingdom, Russia has lost or injured approximately 500,000 personnel since the invasion began. Bloomberg is unable to independently verify the statistics.

During a meeting with foreign reporters in St. Petersburg late Wednesday, Putin appeared to imply that approximately 10,000 Russian troops are killed or injured each month, whereas Ukrainian losses are five times more.

While the Kremlin has failed to make a breakthrough on the battlefield, it has intensified its bombing campaign against Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Western authorities said the attacks appear to be intended to make the city uninhabitable.

As he seeks to maintain public support in Russia, Putin has so far refrained from a full-scale mobilization, and Russia claims to have compensated for a significant portion of its losses — in terms of numbers if not troop quality — through a voluntary recruitment drive that has drawn tens of thousands of people.

The Kathmandu administration indicated earlier this year that it is aware of roughly 400 young Nepali males who have been recruited by Russia; however, many more are believed to have signed up without the government’s knowledge. The decision by India to discontinue recruiting Nepalese Gurkhas for its army, thereby ending a 200-year tradition, may have pushed Nepalis to seek jobs in Russia and other nations.

According to a top Ukrainian official, there has been an increase in the number of foreign fighters detained on the battlefield. Africans and Nepalis have been especially common, they claimed.

According to another European official, some of Ukraine’s friends are considering sharing their knowledge with the impacted countries.

The Group of Seven nations, who will host a leaders’ meeting in Italy next week, have been attempting to encourage countries from the so-called Global South to provide greater help to Ukraine. However, many of those countries have remained neutral, while their populations have become a target for Moscow’s disinformation campaigns.

Last year, Reuters reported that the mercenary outfit Wagner had recruited numerous African people as part of a campaign to recruit inmates from Russian jails for its operations in Ukraine. The news agency followed the stories of three individuals from Tanzania, Zambia, and the Ivory Coast.

According to Yevgeny Primakov, the chairman of Rossotrudnichestvo, an organization dedicated to spreading Russian knowledge abroad, there are approximately 35,000-37,000 African students in Russia.

“Every year, we enroll approximately 6,500 African students to study in Russia for free,” he stated on Thursday at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

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