Russia is sending African migrants and students to war against Ukraine for visa renewal

Russia is forcing thousands of African migrants and students to join in their war efforts against Ukraine, boosting its forces for the offensive in the Kharkiv region, according to assessments from European officials.

According to Bloomberg’s report, Russian officials have threatened not to renew the visas of African migrant workers and students if they didn’t join the Russian Armed Forces.

Some African workers have even been threatened with deportation if they do not agree to fight in Ukraine, one European official said. Others have resorted to bribing Russian officials to stay out of the conflict.

Another European official stated that Russia’s practice of sending migrants and students into battle under duress dates back to earlier in the war.

Russia’s reliance on attrition warfare has led it to continually draw on its prison population to fuel its war effort.

In October, Russia’s Deputy Justice Minister Vsevolod Vukolov said the country’s prison population had plunged to a historic low of 266,000, per The Washington Post. Russia’s prison population stood at 420,000 before the war.

These troops experience particularly high casualty rates because they are frequently deployed in perilous offensive manoeuvres to shield more highly trained units, the official added. Russia has recruited so many inmates that it has started to close down some of its prisons.

According to reports citing Ukrainian intelligence, Russia has embarked on a global recruitment drive to enlist foreign mercenaries from at least 21 countries, including several countries in Africa.

Army recruitment campaigns offer lucrative signing bonuses and salaries for those willing to join as contract soldiers. Recruiters have also targeted migrants and students who previously sought employment in Russia, and in some cases, have lured individuals with promises of lucrative work before forcing them to train and deploy to the front.

Russian military

According to the UK Ministry of Defence, the Russian military lost more than 1,200 people a day during May, marking its highest casualty rate of the war. Since the beginning of the invasion, Russia has reportedly seen around 500,000 personnel killed or wounded. Bloomberg is unable to independently verify these figures.

At a meeting with foreign media in St. Petersburg late Wednesday, Putin appeared to imply that about 10,000 Russian troops a month are being killed or wounded and that Ukrainian losses are five times higher.

Reuters reported last year that the mercenary group Wagner had recruited several African citizens as part of a drive to enlist convicts from Russian prisons for its forces in Ukraine. The news agency traced the stories of three men from Tanzania, Zambia, and the Ivory Coast.

There are 35,000-37,000 African students currently in Russia, according to Yevgeny Primakov head of Rossotrudnichestvo, an organization devoted to spreading knowledge about Russia abroad.

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