Russia is allegedly sending thousands of migrants and foreign students, including Nigerians, to fight alongside its troops in the war against Ukraine in exchange for visa renewal, according to a report by Bloomberg. European officials claim that Russia is using coercive tactics to recruit Africans and other foreign nationals, threatening not to extend their visas unless they join the military.

According to a European official, “Russia has been threatening not to extend the visas of African students and young workers unless they agree to join the military.” Another official added, “Some Africans in Russia on work visas have been detained and forced to decide between deportation or fighting.”

Russia’s practice of sending migrants and students into battle under duress dates back to earlier in the war, with high casualty rates among these troops. Russia’s ability to mobilize greater numbers of troops could become a significant factor in the war, despite heavy losses and a shortage of troops and ammunition.

As President Vladimir Putin seeks to maintain public support in Russia, he has resisted a full-scale mobilization, relying on a voluntary recruitment drive that has attracted tens of thousands of people. However, Western officials claim that Russia’s bombing campaign against Kharkiv appears designed to make the city uninhabitable.

A senior Ukrainian official noted an uptick in foreign fighters among prisoners captured on the battlefield, including Africans and Nepalis. Ukraine’s allies are considering sharing information with affected countries, as the Group of Seven nations try to persuade countries from the Global South to offer more support to Ukraine.

Yevgeny Primakov, head of Rossotrudnichestvo, stated, “Every year we sign up about 6,500 students from Africa to study in Russia for free.” With 35,000-37,000 African students currently in Russia, concerns are growing over Russia’s coercive recruitment tactics and the fate of these students.

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