Radio Liberty says dozens of families in Central Asia have received the bodies of their loved ones killed in Ukraine fighting alongside Russian forces in the year since Moscow's full-scale invasion began.  Russia has issued pardons to prisoners who fought in Ukraine

RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, known locally as Radio Ozodi, reported on February 25 that the body of 52-year-old migrant worker Fathullo Narzulloyev was sent to his family in the village of Nojii Bolo on the outskirts of the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, earlier in February,.

Russian officials reportedly said he was killed in the embattled eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. Narzulloev had gone to Russia for work in June.  He was arrested under unknown circumstances at the Yekaterinburg Airport.

According to Radio Ozodi, his wife said that during phone calls from prison, Narzulloyev told his relatives he “was being forced to go to war.”  She reportedly last heard from him in October.

Tajik authorities say they don’t know how many Tajik nationals, including convicts, have gone to Ukraine or had died there.

Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin, in particular, noted during a meeting with reporters in Dushanbe on February 17 that the Foreign Ministry doesn't know how Tajik nationals are being involved in a conflict between Russia and Tajikistan, “but the authorities are against participation of Tajik citizens in in this conflict from both sides.” 

Meanwhile, RFE/RL’s Tajik Service has recorded 14 cases of Tajik prisoners being killed in Ukraine in recent months.

Tajikistan’s legislation stipulates that the participation of a mercenary in armed conflicts or battle operations is punishable by imprisonment for a period of 12 to 20 years.

In Tajikistan, authorities reportedly said last week that Dushanbe was “ready” to look into any request by Tajik nationals imprisoned in Russia to be transferred to Tajik prisons.

Some media reports say Russia’s Wagner mercenary group has recruited prisoners to fight in Ukraine. 

The BBC reported in September last year that the head of Russia's shadowy Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, has appeared in leaked footage attempting to recruit prisoners to fight in Ukraine.  Mr. Prigozhin reportedly told prisoners their sentences would be commuted in exchange for service with his group.

While Russian law does not allow commutation of prison sentences in exchange for mercenary service, Mr. Prigozhin insisted that "nobody goes back behind bars" if they serve with his group, according to the BBC.

Radio Ozodi says that according to the U.S. National Security Council and Russian activists, Wagner, notorious for reportedly committing atrocities in combat zones around the world, is thought to command up to 50,000 fighters in Ukraine -- with some 80 percent of them having enlisted while in a Russian prison.

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin reportedly claimed on February 9 that his group had ended its prisoner recruitment scheme.