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Russia recruits more foreign mercenaries to fight in war, Ukraine says

by Kateryna Hodunova March 15, 2024 5:30 PM 3 min read
Foreign mercenaries, who reportedly fought for Russia in Ukraine and were captured by Ukrainian troops, participated in the press conference on March 15, 2024, in Kyiv. (Screenshot from the recording on Media Center Ukraine – Ukrinform YouTube channel)
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Russia increasingly involves foreign mercenaries from countries with a "difficult economic situation" in the all-out war in Ukraine, Petro Yatsenko, a spokesperson of Ukraine's Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War, said on March 15 during a press conference in Kyiv.

Russia has been recruiting foreigners from such countries as Nepal, Somalia, India, Cuba, and others to fight in Ukraine from the very beginning of the full-scale invasion.

The General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces reported in October 2023 that around 400 foreign mercenaries arrived in occupied Crimea and were preparing to join Russian troops on the front line later.

The U.K. Defense Ministry also said that Russia tried to recruit foreigners and migrant workers to avoid announcing another mobilization drive before the presidential election, which began on March 15.

India identifies ‘major human trafficking network’ luring Indians to fight for Russia in Ukraine
The news came after multiple media reports said that Indian men who came to Russia for work or tourism were then coerced into joining the war against Ukraine.

"Russia's mobilization resource has been reducing. And we see that Russia boosted its efforts to send citizens from countries with difficult economic situations to the front line," Yatsenko said.

Foreign mercenaries are used as "cannon fodder" by Russia on the front, according to Yatsenko. Russia also refuses to prepare them for combat activities, the spokesperson added.

Several mercenaries from Nepal, Cuba, Somalia, and Sierra Leone, who were captured by Ukrainian forces, joined Yatsenko at the press conference.

According to the Geneva Conventions, mercenaries do not have the right to be combatants or prisoners at war, and mercenary activity must be considered a crime.

"As trials have not taken place yet, Ukraine will follow the Geneva Conventions' prisoners of war treatment rules. They (foreign mercenaries) will get three meals daily, medical treatment if needed, and a humane attitude," Yatsenko said.

Earlier in January, Nepal halted issuing foreign work permits for its citizens to work in Russia until further notice after growing numbers of Nepalese mercenaries have been reported killed fighting for the Russian military in Ukraine.

At least 10 Nepalis have been confirmed killed while serving in the Russian Armed Forces, and as many as 200 are estimated to be fighting for Russia as of January, according to Nepal's government.

‘I want to go home’: Inside a Russian prisoner of war camp in Ukraine
Editor’s note: The location of the prisoner of the war detention center is undisclosed for security reasons. The Kyiv Independent got vocal recorded agreement from the prisoners of the war to be interviewed and identified in the story. Undisclosed location in Western Ukraine – Private Alexey Strelk…

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