Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine are increasingly composed of trained Central Asian militants, according to a new article by RFE/RL. Photographs taken by Reuters on June 22 in Siversk in Donetsk show a native of Uzbekistan as a member of a pro-Russian militia there. On June 24, a spokesman for the “Donetsk People’s Republic” said that any problems connected to potential foreign citizenship could be “resolved.” When asked if it was possible for a fellow Uzbek to enlist, the recruitment spokesman, speaking from Moscow, said that it would be possible.
These new findings run in contradistinction to separatist claims of militias being homegrown entities that the populace largely supports. According to the article, there is little doubt that the militias include fighters from all over Russia and Russian-friendly regions such as Central Asia. Current reports also indicate that Uzbeks and Chechens are currently at large in eastern Ukraine, fighting on behalf of the separatists.
The article further alleges that Central Asians who currently fight in Ukraine are doing so out of promises of citizenship, a tempting offer when the vast majority of unskilled labor throughout Russia is made up of undocumented Central Asian migrants.
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- A University of Toronto student, Alexander Sodiqov, has been accused of spying and high treason in Tajikistan. Sodiqov is a citizen of Tajikistan, and was carrying out fieldwork on conflict resolution in the country’s Gorno-Badakhshan region. He was arrested on June 16 in Khorog under suspicion of spying for an unknown country after he met with a civil society activist. Tajikistan’s security chiefs have pushed back against Western backlash for the arrest, stating that “Sodiquov’s research activity does not mean he cannot commit crimes.”
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