Over 10,000 newly naturalised Russian citizens sent to ‘dig trenches’ in Ukraine

Photo: Sasha Mordovets / Getty Images

Photo: Sasha Mordovets / Getty Images

The head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, told the St. Petersburg International Legal Forum on Thursday that up to 10,000 recently naturalised Russian citizens had been sent to serve in Ukraine.

Under Russian law, any successful male applicant for Russian citizenship must register for military service and join the “special military operation” in Ukraine “if required”, Bastrykin said, adding that the Russian authorities had “caught” over 30,000 who hadn’t done so, about 10,000 of whom had joined the ranks of “rear units” to “dig trenches and build fortifications”.

After the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia adopted laws that simplified the process for obtaining Russian citizenship, making it easier for immigrants, among them citizens of Central Asian states, to apply for residence permits and Russian passports, which led to an increase in migrants arriving in Russia despite the ongoing war.

Over 117,000 Central Asian migrants crossed the Russian border in 2023, more than twice as high as the figure for 2022, according to a Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) report quoted by state-affiliated daily Vedomosti in May.

The Russian authorities have been carrying out raids on migrant neighbourhoods to boost their troop numbers in Ukraine, targeting both naturalised citizens who hadn’t contacted the military recruitment office and illegal migrants, who were promised a Russian passport if they agreed to serve in the military, and threatened with deportation if they refused.

Citizens of Central Asian states have been moving to Russia for work since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and currently number up to 7 million, according to Vedomosti, though their real number may be far higher due to widespread illegal immigration.

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