Russia rounds up migrants celebrating New Year’s Eve and enlists them to fight in Ukraine

Some 3,000 labour migrants detained in St Petersburg alone as Vladimir Putin takes to increasingly desperate measures to make up for Ukraine war losses

Arpan Rai
Tuesday 02 January 2024 06:20 GMT
File: Russia a ‘real and constant’ threat to Europe, says Starmer during Estonia trip

Vladimir Putin took advantage of New Year’s Eve celebrations to round up suspected illegal immigrants and force them to immediately enlist in his war against Ukraine, according to multiple local media reports.

Some 3,000 migrants were detained in St Petersburg alone, as authorities patrolled the streets of Russia’s second largest city carrying out checks purportedly “to prevent crime”, reported the Kremlin’s RIA news agency.

Labour migrants from central Asia perform vital services across Russia’s economy, which is struggling amid the drain of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the international isolation that has come as a result.

Yet Putin has repeatedly vilified them as “not an easy problem” to be addressed, and now appears to be recruiting them to make up for the heavy losses he is suffering in Donetsk and Kharkiv.

Some of the migrants held across Russian cities were handed on-the-spot military summonses, while others were forcibly taken to military enlistment offices, reported the Moscow Times. The migrants are predominantly from central Asian nations such as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia.

The authorities claimed that more than 600 of those detained were in breach of various clauses of migration legislation. More than 100 now face deportation, the report added.

A man from Tajikistan who was dressed as Santa Claus was among those held by the authorities in Moscow, reported Russian online news outlet SOTA.

The raids on Sunday night were carried out near metro stations as well as at popular gathering points for seeing in the new year, such as squares in central St Petersburg, reported news outlet Bumaga.

Russia’s top investigative organ, the Investigative Committee, said it was opening a criminal case against three migrants over “acts of hooliganism” against Russian servicemen in the west-central Russian city Chelyabinsk.

“A crowd of drunken migrants attacked two young men demobilised from the frontline, one soldier was hit with a baton,” the committee said on their official Telegram channel. The reports cannot be independently verified, with Russian media closely controlled by the Kremlin.

In a recent address Putin said Russia has more than 10 million labour migrants. The Russian government has taken increasingly desperate measures to expand its armed forces amid the losses it has suffered in Ukraine, including extending the age limit for compulsory military service.

Last month, Putin signed a decree to increase the maximum size of his armed forces by 170,000 personnel, to 1.32 million.

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