“If you fight for six months, you are free“. This was the offer that Lemekhani Nathan Nyirenda and Nemes Tarimo, two Africans detained in Moscow, received to join the war in Ukraine as Russian soldiers.
The proposal, which was made to them by the Wagner Group, represents Russia’s latest strategy to try to recruit more troops as the conflict drags on without end and the need to add soldiers becomes an urgency.
Since the beginning of the conflict, at least three African nationals were recruited by Wagner. The arrival of Africans is facilitated by historical associations between Moscow and various countries on the continent.
Nyirenda and Tarimo, a 23-year-old Zambian and a 33-year-old Tanzanian, had been convicted in separate cases of drug possession while studying in Moscow. Both accepted the offer of Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Russian paramilitary group, and were mobilized as “shock troops” at the forefront of combat.
Both died on the front lines. between September and October last year.
On January 24, the Tanzanian government reported the death of Nemes Tarimo after receiving confirmation of the information from the Russian authorities. The man had traveled to Moscow in 2020where he studied at the Academy of Technology.
“After studying in Russia, he returned to Tanzania, he wanted to become an opposition party deputy. But it didn’t work out. He returned to Moscow to live there,” says Pauline Bax, director of the Africa program at the International Crisis Group.
A recruit who claims to be Ivorian
The long-term settlement of young Africans in Russia is facilitated by long-standing academic partnerships between Moscow and several countries on the continent, including Zambia and Tanzania. It’s a tradition that dates back to the Cold War.
“At that time, many Russians who worked in civil engineering came to teach at universities,” explains Pauline Bax.
in early January another recruit has been identified who claims to be of Ivorian nationality. In a video posted on social media, the young man, who is next to Evgeny Prigojine (founder of Wagner), appears in a combat uniform. He speaks in Russian and explains that he too was recruited from prison.
“They get some trainingBut it doesn’t last long,” she says.
Before fighting, “they get a little training, but it’s not long, maybe a few weeks or a few months, no more.”
“The risk is enormous,” says the researcher.
The war in Ukraine has been going on for almost a year. For the past six months, the Wagner group has been visiting Russian prisons recruit hundreds of domestic and foreign prisoners.
After confirming the death of one of his compatriots, the Tanzanian Foreign Minister Stergomena Tax urged citizens not to “enlist in any army or armed group of other countries”.
Mark Jones is a world traveler and journalist for News Rebeat. With a curious mind and a love of adventure, Mark brings a unique perspective to the latest global events and provides in-depth and thought-provoking coverage of the world at large.