Ukraine crisis: Russian embassy overwhelmed by Ethiopian volunteer fighters

Ethiopians are seen lining up in front of the Russian embassy in Addis Ababa on April 18, 2022.

Photo credit: Courtesy

The Russian embassy in Addis Ababa has been flooded with requests from hundreds of Ethiopians who want to join Russian troops fighting in Ukraine.

Officials admitted on Monday that a large number of Ethiopians had converged at the embassy seeking to join the war, though they denied that the group wanted to be recruited as soldiers.

"Russia has not advertised to recruit Ethiopians for the war in Ukraine and the information being spread on social media is false," Maria Zakarova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Federation in Addis Ababa, told Al Ain news agency.

"The Ethiopians did not go to the Russian embassy for recruitment, but to show their solidarity with Russia."

An eyewitness in the Kebena area, where the Russian embassy is located, told the Nation that about 200-300 young Ethiopians queued outside the main entrance on Monday.

A photo showing hundreds of youths lined up at the embassy entrance is also circulating on social media.

The Ethiopians were seen holding documents allegedly to register as "mercenaries" to fight alongside Russian soldiers against Ukraine.

But the spokeswoman said the embassy had no plans to recruit Ethiopian fighters for the ongoing war.

"We are not a recruiting agency, so we do not recruit fighters," Zakarova said.

She added: "They are coming in person maybe because many do not know the embassy’s phone number or do not have internet access.  But they are coming to our embassy to express their support"

But she said that “many Ethiopians are informing us by email and in person that they are on Russia's side in the war against Ukraine".

"Ethiopians are doing this because they rely on the long and historic friendship between Ethiopia and Russia."

Western nations have accused Russia of recruiting fighters from the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the Senegalese government was angered recently by allegations that the Russian embassy in Senegal had issued a notice to recruit citizens to fight in the war.

But last week, in an exclusive interview with the Nation, Russia’s ambassador to Kenya, Dmitry Maksimychev, denied reports that Moscow was recruiting fighters in Africa, describing the claim as part of US propaganda.

“I am not aware of a single African enlisted by Russia to fight in Ukraine,” Mr Maksimychev said.

“But I am fully aware of hundreds and thousands of English, French, German, American, Danish, Spanish, Dutch, etc. mercenaries who were hired by the Kiev regime to fight in the neo-Nazi storm trooper battalions to kill the Ukrainians and Ukrainian Russians who do not support Kiev, and the Russian Army.”

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Western powers imposed economic sanctions on Moscow.

Although Ethiopia has not made its position clear on the war, its actions in the UN General Assembly shows it is on Russia’s side, refraining from voting and opposing Western decisions.

Since the war started, about five million Ukrainians have fled to neighbouring countries, and many more have died.

Russia claims to have killed more than 23,000 Ukrainian soldiers, while Ukraine claims to have killed 20,000 Russians.