Russia Solicits Migrants to Fight its War in Ukraine in Exchange for Citizenship

Published: 16 May 2023

Russian Troops UkraineAs Russia’s casualties from its invasion of Ukraine continue to mount, the country is now turning to migrants to bolster its ranks and replace its fallen soldiers. (Photo: manhhai, Flickr, License)

By Henry Pope

As Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has now cost its armed forces north of 200,000 casualties, recruitment drives for fresh replacements are now turning to migrants to fill the boots of the dead left behind by their prospective comrades.

Foreign workers, it seems, can now fast track the line to citizenship in exchange for service on one of Europe’s bloodiest battlefields since the Second World War, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported Sunday.

“Are you interested in obtaining Russian citizenship in a simplified way by joining the armed forces as a contractor?” asks a poster in Moscow’s Sakharovo Migration Center, according to the outlet.

The recruitment aid, displayed in Tajik, Uzbek, and Kyrgyz, is targeted towards military-age men who are desperately needed to replace the losses Russia has incurred against Ukraine’s recent counter-offensives.

One migrant, who wished to remain anonymous, told RFE/RL that upon submitting a standard application, “the recruiters take you to another room for a ‘consultation,’ and there they start sweet-talking you into agreeing to go to the war.”

The United States, an ally of Ukraine, believes that Russia’s armed forces have suffered no less than 200,000 casualties since its tanks rolled over into Ukraine last February, in what the Kremlin originally envisioned as a ‘special military operation’ that would seize control of Kyiv in several days.

U.S. Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said back in November last year that Russian forces had suffered 100,000 casualties over the first nine months since they invaded Ukraine from the north, east, and south.

And just two weeks ago, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby reported that Russia had suffered another 100,000 casualties in eastern Ukraine—20,000 of which were killed in action—from December 2022 to April 2023.

“It’s three times the number of killed in action that the United States faced on the Guadalcanal campaign in World War II and that was over the course of five months,” he said.

The scope of these losses are reflected not only in the dwindling reserves of Russia’s armed forces, but its military stockpiles as well, the National Security Council spokesman added. “It’s really stunning, these numbers.”

While Kirby did not delve into the source behind these figures, it is known that Russia and Ukraine have been at each other’s throats the past few months over the city of Bakhmut, which both sides say is key to gaining control over the surrounding region.

To put these casualty rates into a historical context, the 1979-89 Soviet-Afghan War saw 9,511 Soviet soldiers killed in action and another 53,753 wounded.

Other major conflicts over the past century, such as the 20-year-long War in Afghanistan, which recently ended in 2021, saw only 1,847 American soldiers killed by hostile forces, while another 20,149 were wounded in action, according to U.S. Department of Defence figures.

Likewise, the War in Vietnam, which also spanned 20 years from 1955 to 1975, resulted in 47,434 combat deaths for U.S. forces.

Save for the two world wars, when compared to three of the most significant and long-lasting conflicts of the past century, Russia’s casualty rates in Ukraine have already cemented themselves as amongst the bloodiest of them all.

Despite the mounting losses, the Kremlin is yet to announce another “partial military mobilization” since the one from September last year. The highly unpopular decision resulted in an exodus of thousands of the country’s young men and fathers, who sought to flee across the borders of Kazakhstan, Georgia, and Finland.

This new recruitment policy, aimed to counterbalance the Russian souls that now lie dead as hostile invaders on Ukrainian soil, coincides with a proposed piece of legislation that would accelerate the process for the military to conscript people from Central Asia and the Caucasus who have obtained Russian citizenship, RFE/RL said.

Mikhail Matveyev, of Russia’s State Duma, voiced his outrage earlier this month towards naturalized Russians, whom he perceives to lack any sense of patriotism in this time of war.

Meanwhile, he directed his praise towards “the indigenous people of Russia, primarily Russians,” for their willingness to die for their homeland.