UK Defense Ministry: Russia recruiting Central Asian labor migrants for Ukraine war

The Russian military has been recruiting migrant workers from Central Asia to fight in Ukraine, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported on May 8, adding that it often happens in mosques and immigration offices.

"At immigration offices, staff who speak Tajik and Uzbek routinely attempt to recruit migrants," the ministry wrote in its latest intelligence update.

The ministry cited Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's report saying that Russian military recruiters offered the migrants sign-up bonuses of $2,390 and salaries of up to $4,160 a month. They also offer the workers a fast-track path to obtaining Russian citizenship of six months to one year instead of the usual five years.

The migrants enticed by high monthly salaries and sign-up bonuses are likely sent to Ukraine's frontlines "where the casualty rate is extremely high," reads the update.

The move is part of the Russian Defense Ministry's efforts to fulfill its goal of recruiting 400,000 people for Moscow's war against Ukraine, the U.K. Defense Ministry added. "The authorities are almost certainly seeking to delay any new overt mandatory mobilization for as long as possible to minimize domestic dissent."

The Russian service of RFE/RL reported on March 15 that Russia's Defense Ministry would start a new recruitment campaign on April 1, aiming to conclude contracts with 400,000 professional soldiers. The Kremlin has denied launching a second wave of mobilization, but there were reports that military enlistment offices had begun sending summonses to men in Russian cities.

In late October 2022, Putin and Russia's Defense Minister Shoigu claimed that the mobilization for the war against Ukraine had finished, but the decree on "partial mobilization" remained in force.

According to reports by Ukraine's General Staff and the Institute for the Study of War, the Kremlin had continued mobilization covertly. Estonia's intelligence chief Margo Grosberg said that mobilization in Russia had never actually stopped.