Ukraine war
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A Russian military poster at a bus stop in Moscow. Photo: EPA-EFE

Ukraine war: UK says Russia recruiting migrants, soldiers in neighbouring countries

  • UK says Russia recruiting foreigners to avoid another unpopular general mobilisation
  • Russia has sought to attract soldiers by promising an initial payment of US$5,130
Ukraine war

Russia is recruiting migrants from Central Asia and neighbouring countries to be soldiers for its war against Ukraine, according to British intelligence.

“There are at least 6 million migrants from Central Asia in Russia, which the Kremlin likely sees as potential recruits,” the Defence Ministry said on Sunday in its latest intelligence update.

Russia’s goal is to avoid another unpopular general mobilisation before presidential elections next year, the ministry said.

President Vladimir Putin ordered a “partial mobilisation” of 300,000 reservists in September 2022, prompting hundreds of thousands of others to flee Russia to avoid being sent to fight. Putin has said there is no need for any further mobilisation.

Russian soldiers at the International Military Forum Army-2023 near Moscow, in August. Photo: EPA-EFE

“Exploiting foreign nationals allows the Kremlin to acquire additional personnel for its war effort in the face of increasing losses,” the British Ministry of Defence statement said.

From the end of June, Russia placed advertisements in neighbouring countries such as Armenia or Kazakhstan, enticing individuals with an initial payment of 495,000 roubles (US$5,130) and monthly salaries starting at 190,000 roubles. This is significantly higher than the average wage.

Russian army calls for ‘real’ men as Ukraine counteroffensive looms

Central Asian migrants have reportedly been recruited in Russia since at least May 2023, with promises of high wages and expedited Russian citizenship, according to the ministry.


Coercion is also mentioned: Uzbek construction workers in the occupied South Ukrainian city of Mariupol were allegedly forced to join the Russian military.

The British Ministry of Defence has been releasing daily information on the progress of the Russian war in Ukraine since the start of the conflict. Moscow accuses London of spreading disinformation.

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said on Sunday that Moscow had recruited some 280,000 people into the army since the start of the year.

“According to data from the ministry of defence, 280,000 people have joined the Russian army on contracts from January 1,” Medvedev, the deputy chair of the Russian Security Council said, according to the Tass news agency.


“Part of them were in the reserves, part of them volunteers and other categories,” he added, during a visit to the Far Eastern Russian island of Sakhalin.

Dmitry Medvedev visiting a military recruitment office in the far eastern city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia. Photo: Reuters

In early August, Medvedev said the army had recruited around 230,000 people since the start of the year.


The recruitment as the Ukraine-Russia war drags into a 19th month.

Neither Moscow nor Kyiv gives timely data on military losses, and each is at pains to amplify the other side’s casualties.

According to an assessment by the US Defence Intelligence Agency leaked online in April, Russia had 35,500-43,000 troops killed in action during the conflict, compared to roughly 15,500-17,500 for Ukraine. Russia says US estimates of its losses are far too high - and propaganda.

dpa, Reuters and Agence France-Presse