ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Hundreds of Ethiopians swarmed the gate of the Russian Embassy in the capital Addis Ababa to submit their credentials as ex-soldiers to go and fight alongside Russian forces in Ukraine.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, one of the applicants, Corporal Tarekegn Wassie, said: “I heard that registration was ongoing at the embassy. Some said it was employment for Russian private security companies, others said it was to join in support of the Russian army. Either way, I am here trying my luck.”
The corporal, who said he fought in the two-year Ethiopia-Eritrea war from 1998 to 2000, was at a spot nearer to the gate in the long, multi-column queue. He held his documents tightly pressing to his chest amidst the crowd of men mostly in their mid-thirties and early forties.
“I love Russia and if it brought me a better income let it be regardless of the risks involved,” said Tarekegn, who is married with children dependent on him.
Anadolu Agency spoke with many others in the crowd, all of whom want to hide their identities for personal security reasons, but all of them said their motive to enlist was more economic than anything else. They said they want to have a better life for their families.
The embassy, however, denied it was recruitment. The Ethiopian government has kept silent on the matter so far.
“Thank you for having come out here to show support for Russia, but we have enough army and your services might not be needed right now,” an attaché at the embassy told the crowd at one point, apparently after the arrival of journalists at the gate seeking to interview the Russian diplomats about the registration.
Bunches of original documents were coming out of the embassy premises while others were being collected and conveyed through a tiny room attached to the main entrance.
At least 2,072 civilians have been killed and 2,818 injured in Ukraine so far in the war that started on Feb. 24, according to UN estimates, with the true figure believed to be much higher.
More than 4.9 million Ukrainians have fled to other countries, with over 7 million more internally displaced, the UN refugee agency said.
Meanwhile, there have been reports that alleged that Ukraine has been seeking to recruit African soldiers, a move that met with criticisms from Nigeria, Senegal, and Algeria so far.