On Monday, 18 April 2022, a long queue of Ethiopian volunteers gathered at the Russian Embassy in Addis Ababa in what appears to be an attempt to join the Russian army in its invasion of Ukraine.
Officials admitted on Monday that a large number of Ethiopians had converged at the embassy seeking to join the war, though they denied that the group wanted to be recruited as soldiers. Maria Zakarova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Federation said that "Russia has not advertised to recruit Ethiopians for the war in Ukraine and the information being spread on social media is false. We are not a recruiting agency, so we do not recruit fighters."
The spokeswoman assured the public that the people gathered at the embassy were there to stand in solidarity with Russia. She said, “many Ethiopians are informing us by email and in person that they are on Russia's side in the war against Ukraine. Ethiopians are doing this because they rely on the long and historic friendship between Ethiopia and Russia."
But many of those who queued in line were there to join the war effort in Ukraine in some capacity. Some said they were looking for jobs in Russian private security companies, others said it was to join the Russian army. Above all else, the motive to enlist was more economic than anything else. They said they want to have a better life for their families.
There have also been reports that alleged that Ukraine has been seeking to recruit African soldiers, a move that has been met with criticisms from Nigeria, Senegal, and Algeria so far.
Russia and Ethiopia have strong ties that have strengthened in the last 12 months. In September, Russia signed military cooperation agreements with Ethiopia to support the East African nation’s efforts to stop insurgencies in the Tigray. Ethiopia’s dispute with Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and withdrawal of US support has led to Russia’s increased presence in the country and continent at large.
Although Ethiopia has not made its position clear on the war, its actions in the UN General Assembly shows it is on Russia’s side as they refrained from voting and opposed Western decisions. 17 other African countries, including South Africa, also abstained from the vote. It would be unwise for any African country to actively involve themselves in this Russia and US battle for power on Ukrainian soil but the longer the war continues, the louder the call to pick a side will be.
Since the war started, about five million Ukrainians have fled to neighbouring countries, and at least 2,072 civilians have been killed and 2,818 injured in the war. Russia claims to have killed more than 23,000 Ukrainian soldiers, while Ukraine claims to have killed 20,000 Russians.