Report Reveals Russia Forcing Migrants, Student to Join Ukraine War

Russian President Vladimir Putin isn’t just forcing prisoners to join the country’s fight in the war with Ukraine, he’s forcing African migrants as well as students to do the same.

Over the weekend, Bloomberg issued a new report citing assessments from different officials throughout Europe. The report highlighted that officials in Russia have threatened students and African migrant workers that they won’t renew their visas if they don’t join the Russian Armed Forces.

Some of the workers from Africa even have been threatened to be deported if they don’t agree to join the fight against Ukraine, according to one official. Bloomberg added that some people who would be subject to joining the fight have bribed officials in Russia to stay out of the war.

Russia has relied on unorthodox tactics like this in the past, such as relying on the population in prisons to fight its war, as troop numbers continue to deplenish as the war has dragged on for more than two years now.

Before the war started in February of 2022, The Washington Post reported that the total population in Russia’s prisons was about 420,000. Last October, Vsevolod Vukolov, the deputy justice minister in Russia, said that number was down to 266,000 — an all-time low.

The country has even shuttered some of its prisons because there simply weren’t that many inmates there. A local Russian official told the country’s lawmakers a few months ago that some of its prisons were being shut down because of “a one-time large reduction in the number of convicts,” according to a report in Kommersant, a newspaper in Russia.

With so many prisoners already being dragged into the war — and the country continuing to lose troops — turning to conscription with the Russia’s migrant population seems to the only other resort to continue fueling the war effort. 

However, turning to this way to replenish the country’s troops could be devastating for Russia’s already struggling economy. 

Back in November, Governor Elvira Nabiullina of the Russian Central Bank told the country’s lawmakers:

“Unemployment is 3%, and in some regions, it is even lower. This means there are practically no workers left in the economy.”

At the end of 2023, officials with the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences released estimates that said there was a shortfall of almost 5 million workers in the country that year. The total number of people in the workforce is just less than 74 million.

An article from the Center for European Policy Analysis said that approximately 1 million Russian people have fled the country since the start of the war, more than 300,000 others have been either wounded or killed in the war, and more than 1 million men are still fighting the war.

As such, Russia hasn’t been able to meet many of the needs it has, especially in the labor market. Conscripting migrant workers could further hurt that, though it doesn’t seem like Putin has much of a choice if he wants to keep fighting.