Dozens of families in Central Asia have received the bodies of their loved ones killed in Ukraine fighting alongside Russian forces since Moscow's full-scale invasion began.  A survey conducted by the BBC’s Russian Service says at least 93 citizens of Central Asia’s countries have been killed in Ukraine fighting alongside Russian forces.  

The survey notes that this figure includes not only Wagner mercenaries, but also servicemen from other subunits.  

The BBC survey is reportedly dedicated to labor migrants, who got to the war from Russian prisons, where they where they were recruited by the private military company (PMC) ‘Wagner’.

The study reportedly outlines the stories of several Kyrgyz families, the men of which were convicted in Russia for various crimes, went from prisons to Ukraine and died.  

According to data of the survey, at least 93 citizens of Central Asia’s countries have been killed fighting on the side of Russia in Ukraine.  The figure includes 19 citizens of Kyrgyzstan, 34 citizens of Uzbekistan and 40 citizens of Tajikistan.     

Reports about recruitment of Central Asian prisoners into the ranks of the Wagner Private Military Company (PMC) and their deaths in the war in Ukraine have regularly appeared in the regional media.

Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service, known locally as Radio Ozodi, says that according to the U.S. National Security Council and Russian activists, Russia’s Wagner mercenary group is thought to command up to 50,000 fighters in Ukraine -- with some 80 percent of them having enlisted while in a Russian prison.      

“Central Asia: Implications of Russia’s War in Ukraine” released by the Congressional research Service on June 9 this year notes that Russian authorities have introduced incentives to encourage Central Asian migrants to join the Russian armed forces, including fast-track citizenship and high salaries, and are reportedly attempting to recruit Central Asia’s military veterans.  Since Russia’s February 2022 invasion, the governments of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan—the three Central Asian countries that send the most labor migrants to Russia—have issued reminders to their citizens that fighting in a foreign war is a criminal offense.  Similar legislation exists in Kazakhstan.  In addition, religious authorities from the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan issued a statement asserting that Muslims should not participate in armed conflicts except to defend their homeland. Some Central Asian nationals have reportedly been coerced or misled into joining the Russian military.  Reported casualties of the conflict include Central Asian nationals, some of whom had become naturalized citizens of Russia, fighting for the Russian military, as well as Central Asian nationals recruited to fight for the Wagner Group.  

The overall number of Central Asians participating in the armed conflict is reportedly difficult to determine, “although analysts assess that it is likely small, citing dozens of confirmed cases.”  

There is still no accurate information about Russia pardoned Tajik prisoners killed in the war in Ukraine.

Some media reports say that to date, information has been known about ten Russia pardoned Tajik prisoners killed in the war in Ukraine, and the bodies of sex of them were sent to Tajikistan.

Meanwhile, Radio Ozodi reported back in February that it recorded 14 cases of Tajik prisoners killed in Ukraine in recent months.

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

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.