MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin issued a decree on Thursday allowing foreign nationals who fight for Russia in Ukraine to obtain Russian citizenship for themselves and their families.

The order said people who have signed contracts during what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine can apply to get Russian passports for themselves and their spouses, children and parents. They must provide documents showing that they signed up for a minimum of one year.

Those eligible include people who have signed contracts with the regular armed forces or other “military formations” — a description that could apply to groups such as the Wagner mercenary organisation.

The measure appeared to be aimed at creating additional incentives for foreigners with military experience to apply to join Russian ranks.

Moscow does not publish data on the number of foreigners fighting on its side in Ukraine.

However, this news agency has reported previously on Cubans who signed up for the military in return for bonuses equivalent to more than 100 times the average Cuban monthly salary, and three Africans recruited by Wagner, of whom two were killed in action.

A declassified US intelligence report assessed that the Ukraine war has cost Russia 315,000 dead and wounded troops, or nearly 90 per cent of the personnel it had when the conflict began, a source familiar with the intelligence said last month.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2024

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