Russian university officials pressured African students to join the war, threatening them with axed scholarships and tuition hikes: report

Russian university officials pressured African students to join the war, threatening them with axed scholarships and tuition hikes: report
A building of the Southern Federal University in Rostov-On-Don, Russia, July 24, 2017David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters
  • African students in Russia told The Daily Beast that they were pressured to fight in Ukraine.
  • Students said they were told they could lose their scholarships or see fee hikes, per the Beast.

Officials at a Russian university are warning African students of government retribution if they don't sign up to fight in Ukraine, according to a report in The Daily Beast.

Three students from Nigeria studying at the Southern Federal University, in Rostov-on-Don near Ukraine's border, told the outlet that university officials had pressured them to take up offers to fight either with the Russian army or the pro-Russian private military contractor the Wagner Group.

This pressure included warnings that the government could cancel their scholarships and raise tuition fees, the students told the outlet.

In March, the European University Association suspended 12 Russian members, including the Southern Federal University's President Marina Borovskaya, over their support for the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia's MOD, the Wagner Group, and representatives of the university did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.


The Daily Beast did not name the students out of fear of retribution.

This latest report follows news that Russia is readily recruiting foreign nationals residing there. According to Ukraine's General Staff of the Armed Forces, Rostov-on-Don has become the headquarters of the Wagner Group.

Reuters reported in September that a Russian army recruitment truck had been set up in the city's streets offering around $2700 a month to volunteers. Per the Beast, this included foreign nationals.

One student from Nigeria told the Beast that three officials in particular are regularly seen on campus wearing official ID cards and "trying so hard to convince us to fight for Russia."

The officials have met African students with the promise that they will make a lot of money and then can return to Russia for their studies, the student told the outlet.


Students have also been approached by police and the military, a second Nigerian student told the Beast. "If it's not the police walking up to [African] students in a park, it's soldiers approaching us on the streets to convince us to fight in Ukraine," the student said.

The stakes could be high. On November 14 the Zambian government raised concerns about Lemekhani Nathan Nyirenda, a Zambian national who was reportedly killed while fighting for Russia in Ukraine.

Nyirenda was a student at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute who wound up in prison in Russia, and died on the frontline on September 22, according to the Zambian statement. It is unclear how he ended up fighting, with the Zambian government asking Russia to "urgently" provide further information.

Even so, students with financial difficulties are considering the offer to sign up, the students told the Beast.

One student from Senegal, who said he would never fight in Ukraine, told the outlet that "the pressure is so much."