Foreign students studying in Russia have told of the mounting pressure they are being put under to join the military.
Two Nigerian students, speaking under the condition of anonymity for fear of backlash, have described the tense atmosphere at their local campuses, spotting military officials “wearing staff ID cards and having conversations with other colleagues”.
Russia is desperately pushing to up enlistment numbers as its slowly deteriorating war in Ukraine continues into its 10th month. Billboards plastered with pro-military slogans encouraging enlistment have done little for many of the nation’s disenfranchised youth, as record numbers of young men flee to neighbouring countries.
“They have reminded us a couple of times that there are some Africans already fighting in Ukraine and earning good money,” one of the students said, via The Daily Beast.
“They want us to believe that fighting in Ukraine will benefit us financially.”
The second student said officials have even encouraged Africans studying in Russia to join a private military company to assist the war to the south.
“If it’s not the police walking up to [African] students in a park, it’s soldiers approaching us on the streets to convince us to fight in Ukraine.
“It was surprising to hear security officials tell us that we can choose between joining the Russian military or a private military company.”
Another African student said they knew friends at their university who would likely have to take up the offer to join the war purely to feed themselves.
“Many African students are suffering and can’t even feed themselves because their governments have failed to pay them their monthly stipends,” they said. “Some of my African friends are saying they’ll likely go to war in Ukraine if things don’t improve quickly.”
As many as 50,000 Russians soldiers have been lost fighting Vladimir Putin’s remorseless territory battle, according to latest estimates.
US figures estimate casualties, both killed and wounded, have reached over 80,000.
A brutally cold incoming winter is predicted to wreak havoc on troops and military operations on the ground, with shorter days on the horizon with provisions dwindling in portions of Russia’s embattled force.
With no end date on the horizon, the uncertainty of ongoing warfare has had a major impact on morale among Russian citizens.
In September, Vladimir Putin’s threat that Russia would be mobilising 300,000 soldiers generated mass panic among young men who refused to shed blood in Ukraine after witnessing months of pain.
Tens of thousands of Russians immediately flooded into neighbouring countries following the announcement.
A video of a Russian servicewoman addressing new conscripts about their lack of supplies did the rounds on social media, further highlighting the dire reality for young Russians unlucky enough to be hauled away for military service.
One image taken by Maxar Technologies showed a string of cars lined up for some 20km. Others have reportedly cycled and even walked to their closest border crossing.
“I have no choice but to flee Russia,” one man, who just made it over the Georgian border, told AFP.
“Why on earth would I need to go to that crazy war? I am no cannon fodder. I am not a murderer.”