Eurasianet says desperate to bolster the size of its army in Ukraine, Russia is resorting to trickery, bribery, and intimidation to enlist foreign laborers, particularly ones from Central Asia.

And this has reportedly been complicated by the steep rise in the cost of airfares to countries like Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Eurasianet notes that much of this recruitment is focused on the Sakharovo migration center in Moscow, where foreign nationals must wait in long lines to obtain or renew work permits. Waiting laborers are handed leaflets with an offer: Sign up with the Russian armed forces, go fight in Ukraine and earn a simplified path to citizenship, as well as a monthly salary of almost $3,300.

But rights activists insist this is a con.

“The rules for receiving citizenship have not changed – you need to have an advanced education, no criminal record, your taxes paid up and so on. There is no provision in Russian legislation for getting citizenship in return for taking part in military activities,” Karimjon Yorov, a Vienna-based activist with the Tong Jahoni migrant rights group, told Eurasianet in a written interview.

Yorov reportedly said he has pored through the paperwork that is given to labor migrants and has found nothing confirming the claim that citizenship is granted automatically.  All the documents state is that the five-year waiting period is reduced by one year, he said.  And Yorov is skeptical that even that is true.

As it happens, though, many are reportedly being tricked into putting their signatures to military contract service papers anyway.

Valentina Chupik, the head of Tong Jahoni, said that migrants are given bundles of up to 40 pieces of paper when filling out work permit forms and urged to sign everything quickly without properly studying the contents.

According to her, among the documents there is enclosed a two-page contract for voluntary military service, written in very small print.  “And people won’t even know about it, because they don’t even get a copy of it to keep,” Chupik said. 

Navruz Odinayev, head of a legal aid fund called Himoya, told Eurasianet that in the event of foreign nationals dying in combat, there is no guarantee families will even receive compensation.

And what is more, if governments back in the combatant’s home country discover they have been engaged in military combat, they could face prosecution. In Tajikistan, for example, citizens found to have participated in hostilities on the territory of other states can face prison terms of up to 20 years, Odinayev said.