Ethiopians volunteer for Russian war

Lines form early every morning in front of the Russian embassy in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

Drawn by rumors on social media, young men and the elderly, many with military records in hand, arrived in Ukraine hoping to fight for Russia.

What started as a stream of volunteers grew into scores over the course of two weeks, two local residents told Reuters.

On Tuesday, reporters saw several hundred men registering with Ethiopian guards outside the embassy.

The guards wrote down their names and asked for proof of military service.

There is no evidence that Ethiopians were sent to Ukraine, nor is it clear if they ever will.

A man who came out of the embassy and spoke to the volunteers in Russian through an interpreter said Russia had enough troops for the time being but would be contacted if needed.

The Russian embassy did not respond to questions from Reuters about the man’s identity or whether Russia is sending Ethiopian volunteers to Ukraine.

It later issued a statement saying it was not recruiting fighters and that the Ethiopians who came out were well wishes and expressed “solidarity and support to the Russian Federation”.

Ethiopia’s foreign ministry welcomed the Russian statement for what it called “refuting the baseless reports of recruitment to the Russian armed forces”, but did not respond to questions. Neither does the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The embassy of Ukraine in Addis Ababa has referred questions to the Ethiopian authorities.

Ethiopia has called on all sides to the war to exercise restraint and has not voted on a UN General Assembly resolution condemning the invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

But many in Ethiopia have expressed solidarity with Russia, which has had close relations with the Horn of Africa since the Soviet era.

Rumors on social media of a $2,000 payment to join and the opportunity to work in Russia after the war tantalized some men in the queues.

Many parts of Ethiopia are torn apart by conflict and annual inflation hovers around 30 percent.

“I am willing to support the Russian government and in return I will receive benefits,” Leta Kibru told Reuters outside the embassy, ​​where he returned on Tuesday to verify what he believed to be his application.

“Living in Ethiopia is going to be difficult,” says the 30-year-old street vendor, who said he retired from the Ethiopian army in 2018 and now sells clothes and mobile phones.

“What I need is to live in Europe.”

Leta said he heard about a $2,000 payout from friends who registered.

Two others in line this week said they had seen posts on Facebook stating that the embassy was enrolling recruits.

Reuters was unable to find any reports on the subject from official sources, or confirm any such offer.

The rumors followed news reports in March that Russian President Vladimir Putin had given the go-ahead for up to 16,000 volunteers from the Middle East to be deployed alongside Russian-backed rebels to fight in Ukraine.

“The reason I want to go to Russia is not to fight Ukraine, but because I am not benefiting from my country,” said Binyam Woldetsadik, a 40-year-old guard who said he served in the 1998-2000 border war in Russia. Ethiopia. with Eritrea.

“I would rather be a national of another country.”

By late Wednesday morning, when Binyam showed up, the number of volunteers outside the Russian embassy had dwindled to about 20.

A security guard told him the embassy was no longer accepting registrations, he said.

Leave a Comment