St. Petersburg’s outlet Fontnaka reports that St. Petersburg police arrested at least 3,000 migrants on December 31 and January 1.

Novaya Gazeta Europe writes that the number was “much higher” and that men, women, and children were detained.  

The men were reportedly taken to police stations, while women and children were taken to a special detention center.  Police cordoned off areas where they conducted raids and arrested people both on the streets and in apartments, according to Novaya Gazeta Europe.

On January 1, military enlistment officers came to many of the detainees and offered them the option of enlisting in the Russian army as “volunteers,” Novaya Gazeta Europe reports, noting that officers threatened to deport the men’s families if they did not comply.

Those without Russian citizenship were reportedly offered expedited naturalization if they joined the army.

According to Novaya Gazeta Europe’s information, at least 1,500 people agreed to sign contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry.   

The joint press service of the St. Petersburg courts reported that 31 people were charged with migration law violations.  Two of those charged were released, two were fined, and 27 were deported.

Recall, Russia's police have detained thousands of migrants across the country in New Year's Eve raids with scores of them facing deportation, Russian media reports said on January 1.

Fontanka reported on January1 that police carried out Sunday night's mass round-up of migrants near subway stations, as well as a popular New Year’s Eve celebration spot in central St. Petersburg.

Russia's SOTA online news outlet said a man from Tajikistan who was dressed as a Santa Claus was among migrants detained in Moscow.

In the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, Russia's top investigative organ, the Investigative Committee, said it was opening a criminal case against three migrants for an “act of hooliganism” against Russian servicemen and their wives.

The Committee said it also launched an investigation into “illegal actions of migrants” in the Sverdlovsk oblast and in the Moscow oblast.

Russia's Defense Ministry has many carrots and sticks when it comes to getting Central Asian migrants to join the military.  One of those ways is giving them a path to Russian citizenship.

Some sources note that the news of Russia trying to enlist migrants first reached the public just days before its troops invaded Ukraine.

Last year saw widespread and regular reports of police in cities across Russia rounding up migrant workers who recently received Russian citizenship but failed to complete their compulsory military registration.

In recent months, Russian authorities have been actively offering migrants from Central Asian countries expedited citizenship in return for signing a contract with the Russian Defense Ministry.  Additionally, police have been arresting migrants with Russian citizenship during raids and taking them to military enlistment offices.

Human rights activists say migrants from Central Asian countries are being pressured into signing contracts with Russia's Defense Ministry as the Kremlin tries to bolster the pool of recruits to help fight its war against Ukraine.

Central Asian-born migrants with or without Russian citizenship have emerged as critical targets of Russia's military recruitment drive.  Authorities of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have warned their citizens to avoid participating in military activities abroad as it violates the countries' criminal codes.