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Russia recruits female students from Africa to produce Shahed attack drones - investigation

Anna PaskevychWorld
Researchers say Russia is contributing to the deterioration of life in Africa and taking advantage of it

The Russian Federation recruits female students from Africa to produce Shaheds in the Alabuga Special Economic Zone in Tatarstan, which the occupiers use to strike Ukraine. Young girls are lured through ads in the media, social media, and even through dating sites and eventually used as forced labor - after classes at a local college, students assemble drones for the Russian army, changing their Iranian name to "Geranium".

According to an investigation by several Russian journalistic projects, young girls from Africa are brought to Russia and involved in the production of Shaheds, taking advantage of their vulnerable situation. According to analysts, this is sexism and racial discrimination against African women, whom Moscow uses as labor and to create a positive image of Russia in Africa and demonize Ukraine, Voice of America reports.

After the recent attack on Alabuga, where Shakhtya are trained, African woman Otieno Makrin Ochieng said in a video posted on Alabuga's official page on the X network that she came from Kenya to study at Alabuga Polytechnic, majoring in hotel management.

"I am fine now. But the people who attacked our dormitory today are real barbarians who deserve serious condemnation. They wanted to intimidate us, but I think they failed. "Alabuga is strong, and we will cope with this," she said.

Russia recruits female students from Africa to produce Shahed attack drones - investigation

The Telegram channel of the Alabuga SEZ stated that two UAVs attacked the dormitory, injuring six people, including two teenagers. The institution, which is called a "college" in Alabuga, although it is not officially a college, accepts teenagers from the 9th grade.

Later, the media reported that there were three UAVs in Alabuga and that at least 12 people, all students, were injured. However, users of X in the context (attached to publications that may be misleading) reminded that the attack was not aimed at dormitories, but at a production site for the assembly of "Shahed", which regularly attacks civilian targets in Ukraine.

Last summer, the Russian media found out that college students in Alabuga were assembling kamikaze drones after classes, and The Washington Post also reported on this.

However, what the researchers failed to mention was that not only Russian students were involved in the collection of drones, but also young women from Africa who were recruited to move to Russia through ads in the media and social networks.

International researchers say that Russian media outlets such as Sputnik and RT have recently been actively expanding their presence in Africa, where they are trying to present a positive image of the aggressor country.

Russia uses its media not only to improve its image, but also to recruit labor from African countries.

Russian articles are then reprinted by local media, which advertise "free resettlement" to Russia, education, and subsidized housing in a "tourist city with a 1000-year history."

"African women between the ages of 18 and 22 are offered jobs at a modern composite materials plant with a salary of $580. It should be added that this is a more than attractive amount. According to experts, the average salary in African countries is $290 in Zambia, $228 in Ghana, $176 in Guinea, $118 in Senegal, $111 in Côte d'Ivoire, $45 in Gambia, etc.", reads the ad, which was published by Afriquemedia.tv in August 2023.

But, according to Russian investigators, these methods of luring were not very effective, so the recruiters soon switched to dating sites such as Tinder and Badu.

In this case, the recruiters were the students of Alabuga Polytechnic themselves, who were issued premium accounts on dating apps and, according to journalists, the CEO of Alabuga SEZ Timur Shygivaleyev personally wrote texts that students were to send from their accounts.

He also told them where and what emoticons to put, because as a graduate of MGIMO, unlike his students, he speaks English well.

Only young women under the age of 22 were invited, as Shygivaleev ordered, believing that guys from Africa "could be too aggressive and dangerous."

Back in the fall of 2022, the Russians managed to lure about two dozen young African women from Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria , and Tanzania to Yelabuga. Immediately after their arrival, they were isolated from the rest of the students, and separate rooms were built for studying and living.

They are taught in English and were initially assigned to the dirtiest jobs, such as mopping floors and cleaning up garbage. Later, the African women were involved in the production of drones, Russian journalists say. This work, according to them, can last 12 hours.

In the staffing chart accessed by Protocol journalists, African women are called "mulattoes," the next category in the chart is "Tajiks," a common name for people from Central Asia who speak Farsi, and the highest level in the hierarchy is occupied by "specialists," presumably Russian students.

According to Oleksandr Polianichev, a Ukrainian researcher of the Russian Empire and colonialism at Södertörn University in Sweden, projects like Alabuga "testify to racial and gender discrimination in modern Russia."

"Girls from African countries are officially called 'mulattoes' by the institution's management, and men of color are not allowed to be admitted because of their alleged 'danger and aggressiveness. These are all notorious clichés and practices that originate in the colonial contexts of the 19th and 20th centuries," the researcher told Voice of America.

Kimberly St. Julian Vernon, an American researcher of race and the experience of black people in the former USSR, believes that the Soviet Union has for years cultivated its image in Africa as a country that selflessly "helps" African countries that have suffered from Western colonialism.

Now, Russia is taking advantage of the fear or pain of young African women who "have limited opportunities at home and are often migrants as a result of war or economic devastation," the researcher writes on social media.

Vernon adds that Russia itself creates these circumstances in Africa or takes advantage of them, as it did in Mali and the Central African Republic. But the West does not really notice this situation and does not counteract it.

"To counter the power of Russian material support and propaganda on the continent, the West must do more than spout platitudes about democracy, especially to countries that have been colonized and exploited by the same entities," she writes.

In her opinion, this situation is another consequence of the Russian war in Ukraine. It also demonstrates the West's unwillingness or refusal to recognize the problem, which only harms the cause of the Ukrainian struggle.

As reported by OBOZ.UA, after the arrivals in Alabuga, the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine said that attacks on military targets in Russia would continue and the radius of strikes would increase. Intelligence representative Andriy Yusov also called the strikes on targets in Tatarstan effective.

Only verified information is available on the OBOZ.UA Telegram channel and Viber. Do not fall for fakes!

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