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Russia denies coercing Nigerian students to fight in Ukraine

The Russian Embassy in Nigeria has denied reports claiming Nigerian students based in Russia are being coerced into signing up for the military to help Moscow in its invasion of Ukraine, Nigerian media reported on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, a Bloomberg report alleged that Russia has been forcing African students to join in the fight against Ukraine before getting a renewal for their visas.

The report by the international news agency suggested Moscow is sending thousands of migrants and foreign students, including Nigerians, to fight alongside its troops in the war against Ukraine. The Bloomberg article had also been circulated among Nigerian media outlets.

“Some Africans in Russia on work visas have been detained and forced to decide between deportation or fighting,” the Bloomberg report quoted a European official as saying.

Moscow denounces ‘fake news’

On Wednesday, the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Nigeria released a statement, saying it was “bewildered” by the publication of the claims by Nigerian news outlets.

“The Embassy of the Russian Federation is compelled to emphasize that such news is not only false but also damages Russian-Nigerian educational cooperation by misleading numerous scholarship and grant applicants as well as their partners, who could be extremely concerned by such fakes,” Nigerian newspapers The Guardian and The Punch cited the embassy as saying.

It added that “Nigerian students face no difficulties in extending their visas.”

Why is Russia raising the conscription age from 27 to 30?

On Tuesday, the Nigerian government also responded to the media reports, also denying that Nigerian students based in Russia were being coerced into signing up for the Kremlin’s mission in Ukraine.

The embassy thanked the Nigerian Foreign Ministry for “debunking the fake news aimed at undermining the friendship and cooperation between Russia and Nigeria.”

Putin’s scramble to get more military personnel

At the end of March, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to enroll 150,000 conscripts into the military.

All men in Russia are required to serve one year of compulsory military service and, according to Reuters, Moscow has approximately 1.32 million active military personnel and two million reserve military personnel.

As of the end of May this year, the UK Ministry of Defense said over 465,000 Russian personnel had been killed or wounded since the onset of Russia’s invasion of its neighbor in February 2022.

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