Ethiopians line up to volunteer for Russia’s fight in Ukraine



  • Volunteers asked for proof of military service
  • Russia denies recruiting fighters to go to Ukraine
  • Russia has close historical ties with Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, April 21 (Reuters) – Queues formed early every morning outside the Russian Embassy in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. Lured by rumors on social media, young and old men, many with their military records in hand, arrived hoping to fight for Russia in Ukraine.

What started as a trickle of volunteers swelled in two weeks to scores, two local residents told Reuters.

On Tuesday, Reuters reporters saw several hundred men registering with Ethiopian security guards outside the embassy. The guards recorded their names and asked for proof of military service.

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

A man who walked out of the embassy and spoke to the volunteers in Russian through an interpreter said Russia had enough forces for now but they would be contacted if needed .

The Russian Embassy did not respond to questions from Reuters about the identity of the man or whether Russia was deploying Ethiopian volunteers to Ukraine. Later on Tuesday, it issued a statement saying it was not recruiting fighters and that the Ethiopians who showed up outside were sympathizers expressing “their solidarity and support for the Russian Federation“.

Ethiopia’s foreign ministry praised the Russian statement for what it called “refute unfounded reports of recruitment for the Russian armed forces“, but did not respond to questions from Reuters. Neither does the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Addis Ababa has posed questions to the Ethiopian authorities.

Ethiopia has called on all warring parties to show restraint and did not vote on a UN General Assembly resolution condemning the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, which Russia calls a “special military operation” to demilitarize the country.

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

Rumors on social media of a $2,000 payment to enlist and the possibility of working in Russia after the war drew some of the men into the queues. Many parts of Ethiopia are torn by conflict and annual inflation hovers around 30%.

“I am ready to support the Russian government and in return, once out, I will get benefits,” Leta Kibru told Reuters outside the embassy, ​​where he returned on Tuesday to verify what he said was his candidacy.

“Living in Ethiopia is getting tough,” said 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 payment from friends who signed up before him. Two other people in the queues this week said they saw Facebook posts saying the embassy was recruiting recruits.

Reuters was unable to find any posts on the matter from official sources or confirm such an offer.

The rumors followed reports in March that Russian President Vladimir Putin had given the green light to deploy 16,000 volunteers from the Middle East alongside Russian-backed rebels to fight in Ukraine, although Reuters did not report. not been able to confirm that been sent there. Read more

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

“I would prefer to be a national of another country.”

By late Wednesday morning, when Binyam showed up, the number of volunteers outside the Russian embassy had dropped to around 20. A guard told him the embassy was no longer accepting registrations, he said. he said.

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Written by Aaron Ross; additional reporting by Alessandra Prentice in Kyiv; edited by Katharine Houreld, Alexandra Zavis and Nick Macfie

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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