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Putin signs decree on giving Russian citizenship to foreign fighters

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk January 4, 2024 1:52 PM 2 min read
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his meeting with Constitutional Court judges, Dec. 12,2023, in Moscow, Russia. (Illustrative purposes only). (Getty Images)
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Foreign nationals who join the Russian Armed Forces will be able to apply for Russian citizenship, according to a decree signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Jan. 4.

Russia is increasingly looking to attract foreign recruits to fight in Ukraine while trying to suppress domestic anti-mobilization sentiments.

Putin claimed on Dec. 14 that there was no need for a second wave of mobilization in Russia, a claim he had similarly made before the first wave of mobilization was announced in September 2022.

The new decree stipulates that while the invasion of Ukraine is ongoing, foreigners who join the Russian army will be able to obtain Russian citizenship. Their relatives, including the children of foreign fighters, will also have the right to obtain Russian citizenship, according to the decree.  

The decree also enables foreign fighters who are dismissed from the army due to health reasons, age, the end of their contract, or due to the end of martial law to apply for citizenship.

The U.K.'s Defense Ministry reported in September that Russia was trying to recruit foreigners and migrant workers to avoid announcing another mobilization drive before the presidential elections, which are to be held on March 17.

The report said that advertisements have appeared online targeting men in Armenia and Kazakhstan, and that the Kremlin likely sees the six million Central Asian migrants currently in Russia as "potential recruits."

Russia is also looking to countries far beyond its borders, with both Nepal and Cuba uncovering smuggling rings aimed at recruiting people to fight for Russia in Ukraine in recent months.

Russia may begin full mobilization after the 2024 Russian presidential election, Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksii Danilov warned in November.

This gives Ukraine and its partners three to four months to prepare before Russia moves to a "total war footing," Danilov said.

Putin plays it safe by delaying new mobilization ahead of election in Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Dec. 8 that he would participate in the upcoming presidential elections in March, seeking his 5th term in office. Putin, 71, has been in power since 1999 and it’s all but certain that he will secure a six-year term. Russia’s upcoming presidential
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