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Russian top official suggests revoking citizenship of migrants who refuse to fight against Ukraine

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk October 19, 2023 11:37 PM 3 min read
A picture taken on April 8, 2021 shows Tajikistan citizens queuing to buy tickets to go work in Russia outside the Tajikistan's state air ticket agency in Dushanbe. (Khurshed Davronov/AFP via Getty Images)
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A proposal that would deprive migrants who had recently received Russian passports of their citizenship if they refused to take part in Russia's war against Ukraine was suggested by Russia's Investigative Committee Head Alexander Bastrykin, according to a press release on Oct. 19.

"If you are not ready, as a citizen of the Russian Federation, to fulfill your military duty, a decision must be made to deprive such a person of citizenship,” Bastrykin said in comments cited by Current Time, a project from RFE/RL.

Military service is mandatory in Russia for all men aged 18-27, although Russia has vastly widened the scope of who it seeks to see in the military after huge losses suffered in its war against Ukraine.

There are millions of migrants from Central Asia working in Russia, and many of them try to obtain Russian passports.

In May 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree simplifying the procedure of obtaining citizenship for foreigners who join the military and fight in Ukraine.

Recruits are offered high salaries, especially compared to what they might earn from manual labor, and a fast-track path to citizenship if they agree to go to Ukraine.

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Russia has also sent migrant workers to occupied parts of Ukraine ostensibly for construction work. However, after they arrive, reports allege that their passports are confiscated and they are pressured to go fight.

In addition, Russia has also attempted to recruit foreigners directly from countries in the region, such as Kazakhstan or Armenia.

Intelligence reports from the U.K. Ministry of Defense indicate that it is "highly unlikely" for Russia to begin a new wave of mobilization before the upcoming presidential elections in spring 2024.

Previous rounds of mobilization caused hundreds of thousands of Russians, perhaps more than a million, to flee the country to avoid being drafted. They also sparked protests and other signs of public discontent at home.

Recruiting foreigners or strong-arming migrants who recently received citizenship into military service may be a way to replenish the ranks while avoiding such highly unpopular measures.

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