NEW DELHI: Recent reports suggest that Russia has been engaging in the recruitment of Muslim migrants to bolster its forces in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. This information comes from various intelligence reports, which have highlighted Moscow’s recruitment tactics and the incentives offered to these migrants.
Here are some reports about Russia recruiting Muslim migrants:
In September 2023, the British defence ministry said that Russia had approached Central Asian migrants to fight in Ukraine with promises of fast-track citizenship and salaries of up to $4,160.The ministry cited intelligence sources and said that Moscow was flouting its own laws that prohibit foreign nationals from serving in the Russian army.
In October 2023, several media outlets reported that dozens of Muslim migrants were detained by Russian police during Friday prayers in a suburb of Moscow and taken to a military conscription office. There, they were forced to undergo medical examinations and sign contracts to join the Russian army, or face jail. Some of them said they heard they would be sent to the “special military operation” in Ukraine.
In November 2023, a Russian official assigned to recruit migrants and unemployed people for the war in Ukraine was exposed by a newspaper. The official had ordered regional authorities to provide weekly information on the number of people they had enlisted from 22 categories of vulnerable groups, such as migrants, debtors, bankrupts, and homeless. The newspaper also published a letter and a form that showed the recruitment plan.

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The report quoted a Russian soldier talking about the recruitment drive. According to this Russian soldier, the authorities deliver to them a particular demographic: “drunks, the homeless, people with obvious developmental delays, junkies who have just come out of jail…It feels like they are getting rid of marginalised people. The quality of the army is unimportant to them. They will dig trenches,’ they say.”
As per Al Jazeera, Russia has been actively approaching Central Asian migrants since at least May 2023, offering them the opportunity to fight in Ukraine. The incentives include promises of fast-track citizenship and salaries of up to $4,160, as stated by the British defence ministry in September.
Russian ultra-nationalist groups are orchestrating operations against Muslim “prayer houses,” seemingly aiming to achieve dual objectives. These groups view the compulsory enlistment of Muslims as a strategy to purge Russia of what they consider “aliens” while simultaneously bolstering the struggling military campaign, the Al Jazeera report said.
A group known as Zov (Call), which operates a private Telegram channel with a following of 141,000, regularly tips off law enforcement about Muslim congregations and takes pride in publicizing the ensuing raids, arrests, and expulsions.
A typical message from Zov boasts of such interventions: “Just now, police visited two illegal mosques set up in residential buildings. Over 70 individuals were apprehended. Deportation pending,” reveals one of the updates from Zov’s feed.
For years, Muslim migrant workers have been subjected to a spectrum of abuses including xenophobic assaults, random detentions and arrests, police misconduct, bribery, and intimidation in Russia.
However, when the Russian government’s rapid military campaign in Ukraine faltered, resulting in severe troop losses, it started targeting migrants to enlist them as fighters.
Under the guise of a campaign known as “Illegal 2023,” law enforcement has been scouring various sites such as construction zones, marketplaces, agricultural fields, eateries, residential complexes, hostels, and places of worship. They have also been indiscriminately targeting individuals who appear non-Slavic, as reported by human rights organizations and press outlets.
In the process of document verification, officers claim to discover “issues” — some fabricated, others legitimate, like missing registrations, indistinct official seals, or lapsed work visas. These migrants are then coerced into detention and pressured into joining the military, the Al Jazeera report said.
While the recruitment of Muslim migrants by Russia for the war in Ukraine raises several ethical and legal questions, it also suggests a possible desperation in Russian military strategy, reflecting the challenges Moscow faces in sustaining its military campaign. Russia is trying to create a buffer zone of loyal fighters between its regular army and the Ukrainian forces, to reduce its own casualties.Watch Russia Executing its soldiers who refuse to follow orders, says The White House

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