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UK intel: Russia’s recruitment drive targets migrant workers to bypass domestic mobilization

Facing high casualties in Ukraine and reluctant to further mobilize its citizens, Russia is recruiting migrant workers with financial incentives to boost troop levels without triggering unpopular domestic conscription, though their numbers remain low, per UK intelligence.
A citizen of Nepal fighting for the Russian forces captured by Ukrainians in southern Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Screenshot: Source.
UK intel: Russia’s recruitment drive targets migrant workers to bypass domestic mobilization

To bolster its forces in Ukraine amidst high casualty rates, the Russian government is actively recruiting foreign nationals, including migrant workers from neighboring countries and as far as India and Nepal. Many of these recruits, often not professional soldiers, are being drawn in with promises of significant financial incentives or through coercion, according to the UK Defense Ministry’s intelligence report dated 15 April.

Russia is misleading foreign civilians into combat roles by advertising well-paid non-combat positions. This global recruitment effort targets economically vulnerable nations such as Nepal and Central Asian countries to strengthen its forces.

According to a UK Defense Ministry, Russia is using financial incentives to attract foreign recruits, offering up to $2,200 in monthly salaries, $2,000 signing bonuses, and additional benefits like free medical care, training, and Russian citizenship. This strategy likely aims to minimize domestic backlash by reducing the need for further mobilization within Russia, especially as it faces significant daily casualties, estimated at 913, in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war.

The Ministry tweeted:

  • Russia continues to advertise and seek to recruit foreign nationals to join the Russian Armed Forces to fight in Ukraine. The most recent leaflet, written in English, requests foreigners to join a ‘special’ unit in the Russian Army and highlights a monthly salary of $2,200, a signing on payment of $2,000, a Russian passport, free medical treatment and training.
  • Online recruitment adverts were distributed during the middle of 2023 specifically appealing to citizens of neighbouring countries, such as Armenia and Kazakhstan, with monthly salary offers of $1,973 and signing on payments of $5,140. During 2023 Russia had also been approaching central Asian migrants within Russia. More recently there have been reports of migrants from India and Nepal recruited and sent to fight in Ukraine.
  • It is likely that many of those that have been recruited are not professional soldiers but migrant workers and have been coerced to fight under false pretences or with the offer of financial incentives. The numbers of foreign nationals in the Russian Armed Forces are likely to be low and integrated in to established rather than ‘special’ units. Russia likely wishes to avoid further unpopular domestic mobilisation measures and with significant casualties – currently estimated at 913 per day — Russia needs to continue to explore all recruitment avenues to maintain a high tempo of personnel in-flow.

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