Kyrgyzstan Acquires Turkish UAS, Showing Less Reliance on Russia

A Turkish TAI Aksungur twin-engine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle on demonstration at Teknofest 2019.

For 2.5 years, Kyrgyzstan has allocated 125 billion soms ($1.422 billion) to upgrade equipment.”

Kyrgyzstan has relied on Russian security assistance to help upgrade weapon systems and equipment for its armed forces. When the government announced in late 2021 that it had purchased two Turkish Bayraktar TB-2 unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for the country’s border guards, it marked a partial shift away from Russian systems that has continued with newer acquisitions.[i] The excerpted article from the independent news website Fergana Agency reports that Kyrgyzstan spent $1.4 billion over the past two-and-a-half years on its armed forces. The article notes that Kyrgyzstan acquired Bayraktar, Aksungur, and Akinci UAS from Turkey, as well as Pechora surface-to-air missile systems and Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters from Russia. It is unclear if the TB-2s are additional systems, but the Aksungur and Akinci and Russian systems are new acquisitions.[ii] The article also discusses the numerous conflicts that have taken place on the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border in recent years, suggesting one possible motivation for Kyrgyzstan’s desire to upgrade its systems. According to the article, last September both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan brought up additional forces during one clash that killed dozens, demonstrating how clashes in recent years have increased in scale. Overall, Kyrgyzstan’s military acquisitions are not a shift in the balance of power in the region, but it provides it an edge that Tajikistan does not have.


“За 2,5 года Кыргызстан потратил на обновление вооруженной техники почти $1,5 млрд (For 2.5 years Kyrgyzstan has spent almost $1.5 billion on upgrading military equipment),” Fergana Agency (independent Russian-language news website focusing on Central Asia), 21 July 2023.

For 2.5 years, Kyrgyzstan has allocated 125 billion soms ($1.422 billion) to upgrade equipment. This was announced by the head of the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) Kamchybek Tashiev at a government meeting…

Tashiyev noted that in 2005-2020, Kyrgyzstan spent 3-5 billion soms ($34-56.9 million) for the same purposes. For comparison, he listed that in 2021 alone, the country’s authorities allocated 32 billion soms ($364 million) to upgrade weapons, in 2022 – 53 billion soms ($603 million), for six months of 2023 – more than 40 billion soms ($455 million).

…According to Tashiev, Bayraktar, Aksungur, Akinci drones, the Pechora anti-aircraft missile system, Mi-8, Mi-17 helicopters were purchased.

“We didn’t receive all this as a gift, all this was purchased with state budget funds,” Tashiev stressed. …in recent years there have been numerous border conflicts between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The biggest one happened in September last year. Artillery and heavy armored vehicles were involved in the battles on both sides.


[i] For background on Kyrgyzstan’s acquisition of Bayraktars in 2021, see: Matthew Stein “Kyrgyzstan Conducts Exercise with Its New Bayraktars,” OE Watch, 05-2022.

[ii] One of the deliveries of new Russian helicopters took place a few weeks before the announcement by Tashiev, see: Kseniya Timofeeva, “Кыргызстан получил новый вертолет Ми-17. От России, но за свои средства (Kyrgyzstan received a new Mi-17 helicopter. From Russia, but bought on its own),” Kaktus, 23 June 2023.

Image Information:

Image: A Turkish TAI Aksungur twin-engine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle on demonstration at Teknofest 2019.
Attribution: CC BY-SA 4.0

Azerbaijan Protests India’s Delivery of Weapons to Armenia

Hikmat Hajiyev has been the Foreign Policy Advisor to the President of Azerbaijan since 2018.

“But the fact remains that today Armenia, even if it wants to, will not be able to transfer these weapons to the remnants of the so-called regime in Karabakh.”

For years, Armenia has watched its adversary, Azerbaijan, receive weapons from Turkey, Russia, and Israel. Armenia has a smaller defense budget than Azerbaijan’s, and thus, has not been able to match the same level of acquisitions, notably, contracting for an export version of Russia’s Iskander ballistic missile system in 2016.[i]

However, despite these challenges, according to the first excerpted article from the Azerbaijani news agency Trend, Armenia received an unnamed weapon system from India in late July 2023. The article also mentions a $400 million contract between India and Armenia signed this past year providing Armenia with the Pinaka multiple rocket launcher, 155 mm artillery systems, anti-tank rockets, and unknown quantities of ammunition.[ii] The second excerpted article from the Azerbaijani news website Caliber reports that the Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan – Head of the Foreign Policy Department of the Presidential Administration, Hikmet Hajiyev, met with India’s ambassador to discuss his concerns about the increasing military cooperation between India and Armenia. Hajiyev noted that India’s cooperation with Armenia comes as Azerbaijan and Armenia are negotiating a peace agreement and that the delivery of new weapons aggravates the situation. The article notes that India’s ambassador would relay the message to Armenia, but that the meeting was unlikely to have a major impact. While Azerbaijan has fair relations with India, it has better relations with Pakistan, including an increasing level of security cooperation in recent years.[iii] Ultimately, the delivery of weapons to Armenia could lead Azerbaijan to deepen its relationship with Pakistan.


Takhmaz Asadov, “Из Индии в Армению везут оружие – кто хочет накалить ситуацию в регионе? (Weapons are being delivered from India to Armenia – who wants to heat up the situation in the region?),” Trend (news agency in Azerbaijan), 26 July 2023.

The movement of a vehicle column from the border checkpoint Nurduz (Iran) to Armenia was recorded. According to the spread footage, it can be seen that the cargo being transported is covered with an awning so that the destination of the cargo remains unknown. However, it is clear that the cargo transported from Iran to Armenia is for military purposes and has already been delivered to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

As for the consignor of the cargo, this is India, with which Armenia has recently been rapidly increasing military-technical cooperation. It is known only from open sources in the media that a military contract worth more than 400 million US dollars has been signed between Armenia and India…

“Индия разжигает огонь на Южном Кавказе (India is stoking a fire in the South Caucasus),” Caliber (news website from Azerbaijan), 26 July 2023.

On July 26, Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan – Head of the Foreign Policy Department of the Presidential Administration Hikmet Hajiyev met with the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of India to our country Sridharan Madhusudhanan.

At the meeting, Hikmet Hajiyev noted that the Azerbaijani side is concerned about the deepening of military cooperation between Armenia and India, in particular, the photos and videos circulated in the media in recent days about the transportation of Indian-made weapons systems through Iran to Armenia…

Hikmet Hajiyev stressed that the supply of weapons by India to Armenia, at a time when Azerbaijan is negotiating a peace agreement with this country, serves to militarize Armenia and aggravate the situation, hinder the establishment of lasting peace and security in the South Caucasus region…The Indian Ambassador assured that he would inform official Delhi about the issue raised by Azerbaijan, noted the importance of dialogue between the two countries to discuss issues of concern in bilateral relations…


[i] The export version of Iskander missile system does not have as long of a range as the version Russia uses, but it has many of the same capabilities. For background on Armenia’s acquisition of it, see: Matthew Stein “Armenia’s Acquisition of the Iskander Ballistic Missile System,” OE Watch, November 2016.

[ii] For more information on Armenia’s acquisitions from India, see: Matthew Stein “Armenia Acquires Indian Multiple Rocket Launcher System Amid Delays in Russian Deliveries,” OE Watch, 11-2022.

 [iii] Security cooperation between Azerbaijan and Pakistan has been increasing for the past several years, see: Matthew Stein “Pakistan Providing Border Security Assistance to Azerbaijan,” OE Watch, October 2021.

Image Information:

Image: Hikmat Hajiyev has been the Foreign Policy Advisor to the President of Azerbaijan since 2018.
Attribution: Public domain

Armenia Questions Continuing Its Membership in Russia-Led Regional Security Body

Before the meeting of the leaders of the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. From left to right: CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas, Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon

“After Russia’s refusal to intervene in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the fall of 2020, Armenia’s confidence in the benefits of participating in the Collective Security Treaty Organization has weakened to the point of threats to leave the CSTO.” 

Armenia has long considered ending its membership in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) due to a perceived lack of support from the organization following numerous clashes with its neighbor Azerbaijan, which is not a CSTO member. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s statement on 22 May that Armenia is considering leaving the organization marked the latest in a series of disputes between Armenia and CSTO leadership that could be a turning point for its role in the organization. The accompanying excerpted article from the independent, Caucasus-focused website Kavkazskiy Uzel provides a look at the issues Armenia has with the CSTO. The article notes “the degree of Armenia’s unfriendly rhetoric towards Russia has been rising” since the CSTO refused to intervene in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War. In the fall of 2021, Pashinyan made a comment that “Armenia was not going to consider the possibility of leaving” the CSTO, but this position has changed since then. The article notes how the organization and Russia responded to recent incidents between Armenia and Azerbaijan. From Armenia’s perspective, clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh in September 2022 should have triggered the CSTO’s collective defense clause, but the organization declined to intervene. This damaged Armenia’s already tenuous relations with the CSTO in addition to straining Armenian-Russian relations, as Armenian officials believed Russia has failed to pressure Azerbaijan to stop attacks against their country.[i] The article also notes that Pashinyan refused to sign a CSTO declaration in December 2022, declined to host a previously planned CSTO joint military exercise in Armenia in 2023,[ii] and refused to host CSTO observers. Armenia’s relations with the CSTO have become bad enough that the CSTO Secretary General became concerned that Armenia will withdraw from the organization.


“Главное о критике Арменией ОДКБ и Кремля (The crux of Armenia’s criticism of the CSTO and the Kremlin),” Kavkazskiy Uzel (independent news website), 23 May 2023.

After Russia’s refusal to intervene in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the fall of 2020, Armenia’s confidence in the benefits of participating in the Collective Security Treaty Organization has weakened to the point of threats to leave the CSTO. The “Caucasian Knot” has prepared a report on how the degree of Armenia’s unfriendly rhetoric towards Russia has been rising… 

During the aggravation of the Karabakh conflict in 2020, Armenia turned to the CSTO for help. In response, Moscow stated that it could not help, since the borders of Armenia were not violated, the war took place on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. During the 2020 war, the Kremlin limited itself to political support for Yerevan, and then sent peacekeepers to the Karabakh conflict zone…In the fall of 2021, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, commenting on Armenia’s criticism of the CSTO in connection with Russia’s position on the conflict in Karabakh, stated that Armenia was not going to consider the possibility of leaving this organization. However, two years later, Armenia’s rhetoric on this issue changed.  

In the spring of 2022, Nikol Pashinyan accused the CSTO of not properly responding to the actions of the Azerbaijani military in the Sotk-Khoznavar sector. “The way the CSTO reacted to what happened was a failure for the organization itself. Contrary to existing procedures, the CSTO has not decided to conduct monitoring at the site at the moment, justifying the long-standing fears of the Armenian public that an organization important for the security of Armenia will not do anything at the right time,” said the Armenian Prime Minister… 

According to Pashinyan, during the discussion of security issues in the CSTO, he received clear assurances that the Armenian border was a “red line” for the organization, but “it turned out that red lines exist only in words.” “This is important not only for Armenia, but also for the CSTO, because if you say that there is no border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, then there is no CSTO, because the CSTO has a zone of responsibility, which is defined by borders. If there is no border, then there is no area of responsibility; if there is no area of responsibility, then there is no organization,” Pashinyan said. 

On November 23, 2022, Nikol Pashinyan refused to sign the declaration of the Collective Security Council (CSC) of the CSTO and the draft decision on assistance to Yerevan. The reason was the lack of a clear political position of the organization on the issue of Azerbaijan’s actions… 

In January 2023, Nikol Pashinyan stated that Yerevan considers it inappropriate to hold CSTO exercises in Armenia. “The Armenian Defense Ministry has already informed the CSTO Joint Headquarters in writing that we consider it inappropriate to conduct exercises in Armenia in the current situation…” he said.  

Commenting on the possibility of Armenia’s withdrawal from the CSTO, Nikol Pashinyan replied that the Armenian side would be guided by the state interests in this decision…“When the CSTO Secretary General arrived in Armenia in 2022, he told me that the CSTO was concerned that Armenia would withdraw from the Organization. I said that this concern is out of place, but there is another concern that the CSTO may withdraw from Armenia. My assessment now is this: the CSTO, willingly or not, is leaving Armenia. And this worries us,” Pashinyan repeated… 

On May 22, 2022, Nikol Pashinyan confirmed at a press conference that the issue of Armenia’s withdrawal from the bloc remains on the agenda… 

He also explained why Armenia refused CSTO observers, being a member of this military bloc. “The CSTO mission does not operate on the territory of Armenia for the simple reason that, in fact, the organization does not indicate its vision of the territory and borders of Armenia. 90 percent of the problems stem from this,” the prime minister said.


[i] For more background on the strained relations between Armenia and Russia, see: Matthew Stein “Armenia Acquires Indian Multiple Rocket Launcher System Amid Delays in Russian Deliveries,” OE Watch, 11-2022.

[ii] For more background on Armenia’s refusal to sign the CSTO declaration, see: Matthew Stein “Armenia Takes Another Step Away From Russia,” OE Watch, 2-2023.

Image Information:

Image: Before the meeting of the leaders of the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. From left to right: CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas, Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon 
Attribution: CCA 4.0 

Pakistan’s Defense Industry Publishes New Weapon Systems Roadmap

Official logo of GIDS

“GIDS’ future roadmap ranges from improved variants of existing, mainstay solutions – such as the Fatah-series of surface-to-surface missiles (SSM) and Burq-series air-to-ground missiles (AGM) – to newly revealed systems, like the “Group 5 UCAV” or “LOMADS” SAM system.”

Pakistan has cooperated with China on the development and production of several weapons systems for use in country’s armed forces, including the Al-Khalid [RG1] main battle tank and the JF-17 [RG2] multirole fighter.[i] Technology transfers of smaller defense items have also provided a boost to Pakistan’s defense industry. The accompanying excerpted article from Pakistan defense-focused reports on a recent announcement by Pakistan’s government-owned Global Industrial & Defence Solutions (GIDS) on a roadmap to produce new products for the country’s armed forces. While the roadmap did not include joint production of a new system with China, it still provides a look at production capabilities in Pakistan’s defense industry, which has made sales to other governments in recent years.

The GIDS roadmap includes improved variants of existing systems as well as new systems. GIDS “does not develop or manufacture any of the systems it is promoting and selling,” but rather it is the commercial component of other state-owned defense companies, according to the article. The roadmap includes two high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial systems currently in development, one of which can carry a payload of 450 kg, or roughly 1000 lbs.  These systems could be used in a reconnaissance role for Pakistan and could fulfill several requirements for other buyers. The roadmap also includes a new surface-to-air missile system and an upgraded variant of a multiple rocket-launch system that Pakistan currently uses. The roadmap is described as “relatively ambitious” and states that “it is unclear how far Pakistan has developed each of these systems.” While Pakistan’s defense industry has been technologically limited in certain capacities, the article acknowledges that the companies producing these systems are confident enough to reveal them to potential buyers in the roadmap.[ii] It is unknown when all of the systems in the roadmap will be available for potential sales, but Pakistan’s new systems could offer buyers cheap alternatives to systems already on the market. JF-17s have a lower cost than other multirole aircraft, for example.2  Pakistan sold JF-17s to Nigeria in 2020, marking a boost for the country’s defense industry.


“Pakistan’s Defence Industry Lays Out Ambitious Future Roadmap,” (news website focusing on defense issues in Pakistan), 22 May 2023.

Global Industrial and Defence Solutions (GIDS), the commercial representative of multiple Pakistani state-owned defence suppliers, released its roadmap for future products… 

GIDS’ future roadmap ranges from improved variants of existing, mainstay solutions – such as the Fatah-series of surface-to-surface missiles (SSM) and Burq-series air-to-ground missiles (AGM) – to newly revealed systems, like the “Group 5 UCAV” or “LOMADS” SAM system. 

It should be noted that GIDS itself does not develop or manufacture any of the systems it is promoting and selling. Rather, GIDS serves as the commercial wing of a conglomerate of Pakistani state-owned enterprises that specialize in defence, such as NESCOM, for example. Basically, it is these state-owned enterprises that carry out the development and production work of GIDS’ products… 

According to GIDS, there are two HALE UCAVs are under development: the 3,000-kg “Group 5 UCAV” and the 1,650-kg Shahpar III (also designated as “Group 4”). 

The Group 5 UCAV seems to leverage twin turboprop or piston engines. The Group 5’s designers (possibly, if not likely, NESCOM) is aiming to achieve an endurance of over 35 hours and external payload in excess of 450 kg. Though it is called a UCAV, it seems that NESCOM is optimizing the Group 5 for the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) role, especially imaging-related missions… 

GIDS also revealed multiple potential systems that may speak to the future of Pakistan’s ground-based air defence (GBAD) environment through new SAMs and radars. 

First, there is a ‘LOMADS’ SAM with a range of up to 100 km and maximum engagement altitude of 20 km. According to GIDS, each of these LOMADS units would comprise of a multi-function radar and six multi-cell launchers carrying four missiles each. GIDS did not reveal the guidance and seeker details of the SAM, but it likely leverages active radar homing (ARH) like the majority of its current-day contemporaries. 

GIDS also revealed an ‘E-SHORADS’ system, which it has also designated as the ‘FAAZ-SL’. The FAAZ-SL will offer a maximum range of 20-25 km and a maximum engagement altitude of 6-8 km. GIDS stated that the SAM will be truck-mounted (seemingly similar in design to the NASAMS)… 

Finally, GIDS has also shown that Pakistan is committed to continue developing upon the systems it already has, such as the Fatah, Azb, Burq, Zumr, and Ribat. 

The Fatah-II is an evolved variant of the Fatah-I, an indigenously developed multiple launch rocket system (MLRS). Whereas the Fatah-I has a range of 140 km, the Fatah-II will improve upon it with a range of equal or more than 250 km, while also continuing to leverage the same GNSS-aided INS guidance suite… 

Overall, GIDS has revealed a relatively ambitious product roadmap…It is unclear how far Pakistan has developed each of these systems. However, given that GIDS has revealed them to the public (and, potentially, to potential overseas buyers) could suggest that the institutes behind each of these are relatively confident about completing these projects…


[i] For more information on the China’s efforts in the development of Pakistan’s defense industry, see: Matthew Stein “China Involved in Developing Pakistan’s Main Battle Tank,” OE Watch, August 2021.

[ii] For more on Pakistan’s sale of the JF-17s, see: Matthew Stein “Pakistan Moving into Sales of JF-17 Fighters,” OE Watch, May 2020.

Image Information:

Image: Official logo of GIDS 
Attribution: Public domain

India Takes a Step Away from the Russian Defense Industry

Foreign Military Studies Office logo

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India and Russia have had a long-standing security cooperation partnership, with India relying heavily on Russian weapons and equipment for its armed forces. However, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Make in India initiative in 2014 to develop the country’s defense industry and reduce dependence on imports. The war in Ukraine has caused India to accelerate this process and end negotiations or cancel agreements with Russia on several weapon system acquisitions. Indian officials cited Russia’s logistical problems in delivering new systems as the reason for the cancellations. This article examines how the conflict in Ukraine has impacted one of Russia’s key security cooperation partnerships and how India’s defense industry is developing to produce replacements for these systems. The study provides insights into the challenges and opportunities for India to achieve its goal of self-reliance in defense production.

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Russia Strengthens Its Military Presence in Central Asia

 201st Military Base.

201st Military Base.

“Russia decided to increase the readiness of its military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan because of “US attempts to restore its military presence in Central Asia.”

Russia’s military bases in Central Asia have always been important to its strategic goals in the region, particularly for dealing with potential instability in Afghanistan. While the Russian government initially accepted U.S. airbases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan beginning in 2001 to support operations in Afghanistan, it later pressed both governments to evict U.S. forces. The United States left the Kharshi-Khanbad airbase (known as K2) in Uzbekistan in 2005[i] and left the Transit Center at Manas in Kyrgyzstan in 2014. Russian officials have claimed that U.S. security cooperation with Central Asian states in the 2000s took place as part of an effort to establish permanent military bases in the region, though the United States has not used a regional military facility since it left Manas.

The accompanying excerpted article from Kyrgyzstan’s independent news website Kloop reports on a statement by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on 28 April 2023 in New Delhi, India about increasing the combat readiness of Russian bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Shoigu noted that Russia made this decision to increase combat readiness because the United States is trying “to restore its military presence in Central Asia…under the pretext of helping in the fight against terrorism.” However, the article also notes that Shoigu did not offer facts to substantiate this this claim. When Russian officials announced measures to strengthen its military bases in Central Asia in the past, they noted specific increases in capabilities, like the transfer of S-300 [RG1] air defense systems to Tajikistan in 2019.[ii] Shoigu also stated that requests from members of the SCO to host military facilities is a “direct threat to stability in the SCO space.” Shoigu did not mention which SCO member would potentially host the U.S. military, but SCO members in Central Asia include Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. There have been no reports that any of the three have been negotiating to host U.S. forces, but Shoigu is warning fellow SCO members that Russia will consider hosting the United States as a threat. The article also usefully provides a reminder of the current Russian military bases in Central Asia. These include the Kant airbase outside Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and the 201st Russian military base, home of the 201st Motor Rifle Division, in Tajikistan, the latter of which is Russia’s largest military facility outside its borders. The article ends by noting that Ukraine claimed it destroyed a tactical group from the 201st military base last year, though this has not been verified. While Russia claims it is strengthening its bases in Central Asia as a measure to maintain its presence in the region, without any specific information on how this will take place, it is possible that Russia is doing this to replace losses of the of the 201st in Tajikistan suffered in Ukraine.


Munduzbek Kalykov, “Шойгу: Россия повышает боеготовность своих военных баз в Кыргызстане и Таджикистане (Shoigu: Russia will increase the combat readiness of its military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan),” Kloop (an independent Russian-language news website in Kyrgyzstan), 29 April 2023.

Russia decided to increase the readiness of its military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan because of “US attempts to restore its military presence in Central Asia.” This was stated by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as reported by RIA Novosti.

According to Shoigu, “the United States and its allies, under the pretext of helping in the fight against terrorism, are trying to restore their military presence in Central Asia.” However, he did not provide specific facts.

“We regard requests to the countries of the region to deploy military infrastructure as a direct threat to stability in the SCO space…” Shoigu said on April 28 at meeting of defense ministers of the SCO member states in New Delhi.

A Russian military base has existed in Kyrgyzstan since the early 2000s. Its main forces are located in the small town of Kant, not far from Bishkek – these are Su-25 [RG1] attack aircraft and Mi-8 [RG2] helicopters. The Russian joint military base also includes a test site at Issyk-Kul, where Russian sailors test underwater torpedoes.

The 201st Russian military base is located in Tajikistan, and the garrison is deployed in the cities of Dushanbe and Bokhtar. This is Russia’s largest military facility outside its borders. The base includes motorized rifle artillery, reconnaissance, anti-aircraft missile and other units, as well as an air group……in mid-April 2022, the Ukrainian army announced the destruction of the tactical group of the 201st Russian military base, which has a permanent deployment in Tajikistan…


[i] The withdrawal of U.S. forces from K2 cannot be solely attributed to Russian pressure. In May 2005, the Uzbek military forcefully put down public demonstrations in the Ferghana Valley, killing numerous civilians and drawing the ire of the Bush administration regarding human rights. This began a diplomatic row between the United States and Uzbekistan, which resulted in an Uzbekistani demand that the United States leave the base within six months, eventually withdrawing from K2 in November 2005.

[ii] For more background on Russia’s transfers of S-300s to Tajikistan, see: Matthew Stein “Russia Transfers S-300s to Tajikistan,” OE Watch, December 2019.

Image Information:

Image: 201st Military Base.
Attribution: CCA 4.0

India’s Perspective on Negotiations With China Over Line of Actual Control

S. Jaishankar and Wang Yi - 25 March 2022.

S. Jaishankar and Wang Yi – 25 March 2022.

“Despite several rounds of talks at the military and foreign office levels, only four of the disputed points have been ‘de-escalated’ by creating buffer zone.”

India and China have been negotiating to resolve disputes along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto India-China border, since a series of clashes in May 2020 resulted in dozens of deaths and numerous injuries. While both Indian and Chinese officials have stated that progress has been made to resolve the disputed border, the accompanying excerpted articles from India provide a look at how Indian officials differ in their assessment of the situation compared to China.

The first excerpted article from the independent English-language news website The Wire reports on the foreign ministers of India and China, who met in India in early May on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) ministerial meeting. The article notes that while Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang stated the situation at the border is “generally stable,” Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar believes there continues to be an “abnormal position” on the border. Jaishankar noted that both sides need to move forward on resolving the dispute but stated that India-China relations cannot be normal if there is no peace in the border areas. The article also notes that the border stand-off at the LAC has been going on for three years and that despite negotiations, “only four of the disputed points have been ‘de-escalated’ by creating buffer zones.” The article points out how Chinese officials have been hesitant to acknowledge that the two remaining disputed border points are a part of the ongoing situation and that since last September they believe the dispute “has largely been resolved.”  The second excerpted article from the independent English-language news website The Print reports on the signing of over 100 contracts by India’s army, navy, and air force under the emergency procurement power that the government set up for the armed forces several years ago. The government established the acquisition powers in response to the 2016 Uri terrorist attack but has allowed them to continue in the wake of the 2020 LAC border dispute with China. The powers allow the armed forces to make acquisitions outside of the requirements of the Make in India initiative if there is an operational requirement for them.[i] The article notes that a few of the acquisitions are with Indian and not foreign companies, including air defense systems, radar, and coastal missile batteries. Ultimately, the articles show that India continues to have a different perspective than China on how well the negotiations over the LAC are going and will allow emergency acquisitions for the armed forces to continue in support of its own position in this dispute.


“Jaishankar Reiterates Abnormal Position at Border Standoff Despite China’s Claims of Stability,” The Wire (an independent English-language news website), 5 May 2023.

After Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang reiterated that border situation is “generally stable”, Indian external affairs minister S. Jaishankar on Friday, May 5, reiterated that the boundary stand-off continues to show that there is an “abnormal position” along the boundary.

…Speaking at the post-SCO meeting media briefing, Jaishankar disagreed with his Chinese counterpart’s assessment. “I think the issue is that there is an abnormal position in border areas. We had a frank discussion about it”.

The Indian minister added, “We have to take the disengagement process forward. I have made it very clear, publicly as well, that India-China relations are not normal and cannot be normal if peace and tranquility in the border areas are disturbed”.

Qin and Jaishankar engaged in talks for almost 70 minutes at the Taj Exotica in Goa before the commencement of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s ministerial meeting on Thursday…

The stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh has lasted for almost three years, leading to the first deaths at the border in four decades.

Despite several rounds of talks at the military and foreign office levels, only four of the disputed points have been ‘de-escalated’ by creating buffer zones. The Chinese authorities have been hesitant to acknowledge that the remaining two points, Demchok and Depsang, are also part of the current border crisis, causing a stalemate in negotiations.

China have been stressing since September 2022 that the border crisis has largely been resolved, and they have been advocating for a “normalisation” of border management. This message was reiterated by Qin Gang during his first meeting with Jaishankar in March…

Snehesh Alex Philip, “Army, Navy, IAF get 6 more months for emergency procurement, MoD rushes to wrap up contracts,” The Print (an independent English-language news website from India), 7 April 2023.

The Indian Army, Navy and Air Force are in the process of signing over 100 contracts under the emergency procurement powers given to them.

These powers were first given to the armed forces after the 2016 Uri attack to help them circumvent the slow bureaucratic system of procurement, and under these, the services can ink contracts worth Rs 300 crore each on their own.

Since 2016, these emergency procurement powers have been renewed multiple times, and have now been extended for an additional six months…

According to sources, these procurements, which will be indigenous with at least 60 per cent localisation, will cater to a large number of niche technology, drones and ammunition…

“The March rush is always there, including in the defence ministry, just like other ministries. The capital budget has also increased every year and hence the spending powers increase,” Laxman Kumar Behera, chairperson, Special Centre for National Security Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, told The Print.

“Also, the fact is that they are not signing many contracts with foreign companies but with Indian companies. It might take time initially because of the various trials, but it is good in the long term,” he added.

…On 30 March, the ministry signed contracts for the procurement of an improved Akash air defence system and 12 Weapon Locating Radars Swathi (Plains) for the Army at an overall cost of over Rs 9,100 crore.

While the Akash systems are manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Limited, Swathi is manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).On the same day, the ministry inked a contract with BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited (BAPL) for procurement of Next Generation Maritime Mobile Coastal Batteries (Long range) weapon system and BrahMos [RG1]missiles at an approximate cost of over Rs 1,700 crore…


[i] For more background on India’s emergency procurements amid the Make in India initiative, see: Matthew Stein “Emergency Spending for the Indian Armed Forces,” OE Watch, August 2020.

Image Information:

Image: S. Jaishankar and Wang Yi – 25 March 2022
Attribution: Government Open Data License – India (GODL)

Lessons for India From the War in Ukraine

Induction Of AH-64E Apache Attack Helicopter in Indian Air Force.

Induction Of AH-64E Apache Attack Helicopter in Indian Air Force.

“If Indian Apaches have any role to play against Pakistan or China, it will most likely be in a reconnaissance role or missions involving close air support for ground forces.”

The Indian Armed Forces carried out an exercise in the summer of 2022 that drew on the lessons from the first few months of the war in Ukraine.[i] The accompanying excerpted article from the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), an independent think-tank in India, examines some additional lessons the Indian armed forces can draw from the war in Ukraine. While the article is not an official Indian position, ORF does have influence on Indian policy making.  In early March 2023, the think-tank co-hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with India’s Ministry of External Affairs as part of the Raisina Dialogue. The Raisina Dialogue is an annual event that brings in policymakers from around the world; while it only began in 2016, it has become one of the most significant forums in India on geopolitical issues. The article’s authors enumerate six lessons that India can learn from the war in Ukraine. First, the authors cite the battle for Bakhmut as an example of the importance of securing territory even when the battle is not important for the outcome of the war overall. This leads to the second lesson: “attritional warfare still matters” as armor, artillery, and engineers are not replaceable by cyber or other non-kinetic capabilities. From its perspective, this makes an army and land power vital for India’s security and defense.. Third, the authors note the importance of having “land-based ballistic and cruise missile forces” after having watched what happened to several ships in Russia’s Black Sea fleet. Fourth, the authors note that rotary and fixed-wing aircraft have not had much of a strategic impact on the conflict. Thus, India’s own capabilities in this domain would most likely take on a reconnaissance or close air support role in a potential war with Pakistan or China. As a result, the authors believe India should develop counter-UAV systems. Lastly, they note that the fifth and sixth lessons show how airborne and amphibious forces should be used selectively and that artificial intelligence can be used to increase targeting capabilities, respectively. The article concludes by noting that the Indian Army “has its task cut out” for itself and it should invest in kinetic capabilities and apply emerging technologies alongside them, “not as substitutes but as enablers.” While it remains to be seen what changes Indian officials make for the armed forces, the article articulates how the war in Ukraine could influence these decisions.


Harsh V. Pant and Kartik Bommakanti, “Learnings from the Ukraine battlefield for armed forces,” Observer Research Foundation (independent think-tank in India), 22 March 2023.

The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, visibly evident in the bloody fighting in the Ukrainian town of Bakhmut, has again drawn attention to the constant – war is the ultima ratio or the supreme arbiter in international politics…

There are six key takeaways for India from the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

First, and specifically in the war underway between Russia and Ukraine, strategically, the success in the battle of Bakhmut is not consequential for the overall direction of the war for either party. Yet, despite its limited strategic or military value, the two warring States have been fighting a brutal campaign to win it for the last several months, reflecting how visceral the motivation remains in securing land-based territorial possession…

Second, this leads us to a corollary and related variable – attritional warfare still matters, making armies and land power vital to a nation’s security and defence, including India’s…Critical capabilities such as armour, artillery and technical personnel, such as engineers, will still matter, and they are not replaceable by cyber, space and other non-kinetic information-related capabilities.

Third, the Russia-Ukraine war has revealed the vulnerability of maritime forces to interdiction and destruction…As a result, the Russian Navy’s Black Sea fleet has effectively retreated to its bases or been compelled to maintain a safe distance from Ukrainian shore-based missiles. It is not for nothing the Chinese have built a whole range of “carrier killing” shore- and land-based projectiles in the form of Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles and Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles…India can also emulate Ukraine and China by building its land-based ballistic and cruise missile forces.

Fourth, deep penetration attacks inside enemy territory, employing rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, have proved ineffective in producing a strategic effect…

Take rotary-wing aircraft such as the Apache, which India operates, and is geared for deep strike missions…If Indian Apaches have any role to play against Pakistan or China, it will most likely be in a reconnaissance role or missions involving close air support for ground forces.

Ukrainian forces have used short-range anti-aircraft weapons and small arms fire with lethal effect against Russian fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. On the other hand, the Ukrainians have yet to gain much either, as they have been compelled to use their air assets to support ground forces and preserve combat strength. Consequently, neither side has gained air superiority. India could benefit considerably by developing Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems, instead of investing heavily in deep-penetration strike capabilities, which are highly vulnerable to adversary interdiction…

The fifth issue that Indian defence planners must consider is that airborne and amphibious missions are susceptible to lethal targeting by the enemy…For example, Russian airborne forces incurred heavy losses in trying to seize Hostomel airport in the early stages…Amphibious and airborne forces might not be relics of the past, but they must be used in selective and specific missions. Acquiring capabilities that increase the survivability and lethality of Indian forces should be the core aim of Indian military planners.

Finally, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has already played an important role in the Ukraine conflict and will do so in future wars…Ukrainian forces have employed AI with devastating impact by deploying or embedding software engineers with combat units on the battlefront in Bakhmut.

The engineers have precisely adjusted functions of algorithms to augment their target-acquisition capabilities, enabling commanders to accurately locate Russian forces for destruction…Ukrainians have used a combination of sensor data derived from satellite intelligence and AI instruments to execute precise strikes against Russian forces…The Indian armed services, especially the Indian Army, has its task cut out. It must invest in armour, missile and artillery capabilities and apply emerging technologies not as substitutes but as enablers of these firepower-intensive capabilities.


[i] For more on India’s exercise in 2022 drawing from lessons learned in the war in Ukraine, see: Matthew Stein “India Draws Lessons on Cyber and Electronic Effects From the War in Ukraine,” OE Watch, 9-2022.

Image Information:

Image: Induction Of AH-64E Apache Attack Helicopter in Indian Air Force.
Attribution: Government Open Data License – India (GODL)

Ongoing Clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh Threaten Fragile Truce

Azerbaijani protesters during the 2022 blockade of the Lachin corridor.

Azerbaijani protesters during the 2022 blockade of the Lachin corridor.

“Thus, the corridor was blocked by two checkpoints — an “ecological” and a “peacekeeping” one. The peacekeepers are not letting ecologists enter Stepanakert, but they’re also not interfering with their blocking of the highway.”

On 5 March 2023, a clash took place in the Lachin Corridor, which connects Armenia with the Armenian-occupied region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The fight between Azerbaijani soldiers and Armenian policemen left five dead. The Lachin Corridor remains the only road connecting ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia following the ceasefire agreement that ended the 2020 war. The blockade is being carried out by so-called “ecologists” from Azerbaijan, who have stated they are concerned that mining operations in Nagorno-Karabakh are having a negative environmental impact on the region. However, there have been reports that the “ecologists” are likely working for the government of Azerbaijan. The incident brought increased attention to Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockade of the Corridor, which effectively cut off a significant lifeline for ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. The blockade also raises questions about the role Russian peacekeepers have in the Lachin Corridor, as well as Armenians who are using routes outside the main road in the corridor to travel to Nagorno-Karabakh. While the incidents have not spiraled out of control into a larger conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, they have added to what has been an unstable situation since the 2020 war ended.[i] The accompanying excerpted articles provide a look at the issues causing incidents in recent months between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces.

The first article from the independent English-language newspaper Novaya Gazeta Europe is a reporter’s account of traveling to Nagorno-Karabakh and includes interviews with regional analysts on the situation since the blockade by Azerbaijani ecologists began in December 2022. The author details numerous issues for those trying to travel to Nagorno-Karabakh via the Lachin Corridor, including the cost to be escorted there and having to pass through multiple checkpoints. The author points out how “Azerbaijan is building very expensive roads from its side, carving tunnels in the mountains,” as part of an effort to not only cut off the Lachin Corridor, but also control additional routes to Nagorno-Karabakh. Another analyst interviewed for the article claimed that Armenians are using the corridor to transport military cargo and that vehicles continue to travel to Nagorno-Karabakh despite the ecologists’ blockade. The article also notes how the blockade has remained in place even after outside efforts to end it, including Putin’s attempt to maintain leverage in Nagorno-Karabakh and the wider region through the appointment of ethnic Armenian Ruben Vardanyan to the office of State Minister in Armenia. Vardanyan was later dismissed, reportedly at the request of Azerbaijani President Aliyev during negotiations to end the blockade. The second article from Armenia’s state news agency Armenpress offers insight into an 11 April incident near the Lachin Corridor. While the article presents only the Armenian perspective, which blamed Azerbaijan for instigating the incident, the article notes that the Armenian military had been carrying out engineering work. It is unclear if this work is for a road or a defensive position, but it is taking place near the corridor. With the ongoing blockade by Azerbaijani ecologists and both Armenia and Azerbaijan constructing and using roads in and around the Lachin Corridor to their own advantage, additional skirmishes are likely, increasing the chance of escalation to a wider conflict.


Irina Tumakova, “‘The thing I miss the most? Freedom’,” Novaya Gazeta Europe (independent English-language newspaper), 24 March 2023.

While I was coming down the Lachin mountain serpentine, my phone started vibrating. It was someone from the Russian military base, which, as is commonly believed, maintains peace and security in the small part of Karabakh that is still controlled by the unrecognised republic. “Andrey Valeryevich,” the man from the Russian peacekeepers base introduced himself shortly. “I was told you want to cross over to Stepanakert. Why?”

I explained that I had to see how people in Nagorno-Karabakh are living under the blockade organised by Azerbaijani eco-activists.

“The blockade?” Andrey Valeryevich chuckled. “They’re doing great, better than before! It’s us, peacekeepers, who’re under the blockade. The prices are crazy! Take a dozen eggs — three hundred rubles [€3.6] in Russian money. Isn’t that crazy? Three hundred! These ‘blockade victims’, these Armenians, are the ones selling us eggs at such prices!”

…“There’s a passage to get into Karabakh, but it costs money, 150 thousand [Armenian] drams [about €360] per person,” Armenian politologist Andrias Gukasyan tells me a few days later. “You have to first go to the Russian peacekeepers base in Goris. Why are you so surprised? You’ve come from Russia, you know what it’s like…”

…From the Armenian side, the border is guarded by an Armenian military police post. This is where Karabakh’s blockade begins. There’s another post like that in Stepanakert, in between the two there are Russian peacekeepers and Azerbaijani “ecologists” who organised the blockade.

…Karabakh and Armenia are connected via the Lachin corridor in the mountains. The corridor’s width is stated at 22 km. In reality, it’s a narrow highway where even two cars aren’t always able to let each other pass…Driving here is hard and dangerous, so Azerbaijan is building very expensive roads from its side, carving tunnels in the mountains…

According to the trilateral agreement signed on 9 November 2020, Azerbaijan pledged not to interfere with Armenians’ coming and going to and from Karabakh. The corridor has to remain under the control of Russian peacekeepers, they’re the ones ensuring the aforementioned freedom of movement.

On 12 December 2022, the road was blocked by people from Azerbaijan. They referred to themselves as eco-activists who had to verify the compliance with the environmental protection norms on two Karabakh mines — the Drmbon mine and the Kashen mine…Thus, the corridor was blocked by two checkpoints — an “ecological” and a “peacekeeping” one. The peacekeepers are not letting ecologists enter Stepanakert, but they’re also not interfering with their blocking of the highway…

“After the death of police officers (on 5 March, a car of the unrecognised republic’s police department was shot at, three police officers were killed — editor’s note), we went to the Russian peacekeeper contingent, we wanted to express our protest against everything going on. There’s a lot of blame on our locals too when it comes to the police officers’ death…”

“According to the trilateral agreement, this road is a humanitarian corridor to connect Armenia with Armenian residents of Karabakh,” this is how Azerbaijani political analyst Ilhar Velidaze explains the recent protests in the Lachin corridor. “However, we are able to follow the cargo movement through satellites and we have observed several times that the road is used for military cargo too, as well as soldiers coming in from Armenia. We couldn’t just act indifferently…Unfortunately, the Armenian side is trying to misrepresent the situation as a humanitarian catastrophe,” he notes. “But there’s no catastrophe to speak of. Take a look at the so-called ‘blockade’…During the last three months of the Azerbaijani activists’ protest, the Lachin road was used by over 4,000 vehicles that were transporting various cargo, furthermore, these are heavy-duty vehicles. Can this be called a blockade?”

“Putin sent Ruben Vardanyan to Karabakh as his representative,” Arif Yunusov, Head of the Conflictology Department of Azerbaijan’s Institute of World and Democracy, notes. “He was conducting secret talks about these mines, but they fell through. But for Putin, the main thing wasn’t the mines. Russia, dissatisfied with Pashinyan, assumed that Vardanyan would gain power in Karabakh, the next step being his candidacy as Armenian Prime Minister…You may recall how Presidents [Robert] Kocharyan and [Serzh] Sargsyan came into power, they’re from Karabakh too. Karabakh is a jumping off point.”

Ruben Vardanyan, Russian billionaire of Armenian origin, came back to Armenia in September of last year, went to Karabakh, and was appointed State Minister… In February, it came out that Vardanyan was dismissed from his position, as per the condition put forward by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. That was soon after the UN International Court of Justice demanded the Lachin corridor be unblocked. But the “ecologists” pickets remained.

…When the condition of Vardanyan’s dismissal was fulfilled, Azerbaijan brought forward another one — this one has as much to do with the environment and ecologists (nothing)…“Now, they’re demanding there be a checkpoint built on that road because the Armenians are allegedly transporting weapons into Karabakh,” Arif Yunusov says…

“Азербайджанцы потребовали от армянских военнослужащих прекратить инженерные работы: подробности о провокации в селе Тех (Azerbaijani demanded that Armenian soldiers halt engineering work: details on the provocation in the village of Tegh),” Armenpress (state news agency of Armenia), 12 April 2023.

Presenting the details of the Azerbaijani provocation near the village of Tegh on April 11, Khachatryan said that under the pretext of negotiations, an Azerbaijani car drove up to the Armenian positions from the territory controlled by them and demanded that the Armenian military personnel stop engineering work……On April 11, at about 16:00, on the territory of the Republic of Armenia, near the village of Tegh, Syunik region, a group of servicemen of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, under the pretext of clarifying the border points of deployment, approached the servicemen of the RA Armed Forces, further provoked them, opened fire in the direction of the servicemen and positions of the Armenian Armed Forces…As a result of the Azerbaijani provocation from the Armenian side, there are 4 dead and 6 wounded. As of 0800 April 12, the situation on the front line remains relatively stable.


[i] For more background on incidents between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the 2020 war ended, see: Matthew Stein “The Impact of Territorial Changes in Nagorno Karabakh,” OE Watch, July-2021.

Image Information:

Image: Azerbaijani protesters during the 2022 blockade of the Lachin corridor.
Attribution: CCA 4.0

Russian Companies Using Central Asian Migrant Workers in Occupied Ukraine

Migrant workers in Moscow, Russia.

Migrant workers in Moscow, Russia.

But, digging trenches for money and being citizens of another country, they violate the laws and customs of war and become criminals.

Russia has stated that it will not draft migrant workers in the country and send them to fight in Ukraine. While this has been largely true, the accompanying excerpted article from the Russian-language independent news website Kloop reports that Central Asians are doing non-lethal work on Russia’s behalf within the zone of conflict in Ukraine.[i] According to the article, Russia has contracted workers from Central Asia to construct fortifications in occupied areas of Ukraine. The article notes that private military contractor the Wagner Group, which is one of the Russian companies involved in building defensive structures in Ukraine for use by the Russian military, has recruited migrant workers to work there with promises of a good salary and other benefits. The article also mentions how “the work did not require documents,” an incentive for Central Asians looking to work for Russian entities without needing to officially register to do so.

Such contracted work in Ukraine carries many risks. The article confirms the deaths of 84 workers in Luhansk who had been building such defensive structures, though it is unknown if this number included any Central Asian citizens. Other non-combat hazards of working in occupied Ukraine include poor working conditions, less pay than promised, and possible prosecution if they are captured by Ukraine. Such migrant workers could also face charges in their home countries, including possible loss of citizenship in Kyrgyzstan. Indeed, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have repeatedly warned their citizens that they can face prosecution in their home countries for serving as combatants in the war in Ukraine, with exceptions for those who hold Russian citizenship and are required to serve in the Russian armed forces. While the article is concerned about the fate of these migrant workers, there have been only a few examples of the Kyrgyzstani and Uzbekistani governments opening a case against an individual for fighting in Ukraine, and in each case these individuals fought for Ukraine against Russian forces. The article concludes that migrants are likely to continue working in Ukraine and that authorities in Central Asia will not interfere as the work provides an economic benefit Because of the importance of remittances to the economies in the region.


“Тюрьма и смерть за копейки. Мигрантов зовут рыть окопы для российской армии (Jail and death for a kopek. Migrant workers are being called to dig trenches for the Russia army),” Kloop (independent Russian-language news website in Kyrgyzstan), 2 March 2023.

Migrant workers from Central Asia are being called to construct trenches for the Russian military, including in the occupied territories of Ukraine. They are offered up to 6,000 rubles a day for this work. But the real working conditions do not justify this money: dozens of workers are killed by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, employers are deceptive, and in their home countries, migrants are threatened with jail time and loss of citizenship.

…It was announced in October 2022 by the founder of the Wagner Group, businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, that Russia will build defensive structures along the front line. And since November, Russian websites and Telegram groups of migrant workers from Central Asian countries started publishing announcements about the recruitment of workers to dig trenches, dugouts, anti-tank ditches, and strengthen structures for the military… Announcements about the recruitment of workers for the “arrangement of defensive lines” appeared on the Russian websites Headhunter, Avito, and at least two regional-scale announcement sites…

Employers are willing to pay from 45,000 to 180,000 rubles a month for the risk, or from 300 rubles ($4) per hour. In addition, they promised a lot of free things: travel, medical examination, accommodation, three meals a day. The requirements are to be in good health and between 20 and 50 years of age…A feature of some of the announcements in these groups was that the work did not require documents…The authors of ads in telegram groups for migrants also offered help from the employer in obtaining Russian citizenship if the employee worked on the “trenches” for at least four months.

…84 workers recruited from Novosibirsk, who responded to these vacancies, died from the strike of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the occupied territory of the Luhansk region…Whether among them came from Central Asia or not, is still unknown…President Vladimir Putin, at a meeting with the government, confirmed that workers who were building “defensive structures” in the occupied territories had died.

In addition to the danger of dying from shelling from Ukraine, other troubles await the workers: unsanitary conditions, unheated living quarters and “the attitude is worse than for cattle.” This was told by “Present Time”…The Baza telegram channel also writes about this, citing one of the Tajiks, Aminjon. According to him, they were paid three times less than the promised amount. Other workers were even less fortunate: one had an attack of appendicitis, and another lost a hand, but they did not receive any adequate medical care. After Aminjon went to the police, they began to call him with threats, now he is afraid to leave the house.

Migrants can be prosecuted for at least four criminal offenses for digging trenches for the Russian military, especially in the occupied territories of Ukraine, human rights activist and migrant rights specialist Valentina Chupyk warns.

According to her, if such migrants are caught by the Ukrainian military, they will be tried for illegally crossing the border of Ukraine, as they dig trenches in the occupied territories – for this they face two to five years in prison…If Ukrainians find out that a migrant works for PMC Wagner or contributes to the illegal activities of the occupying authorities (for example, if the migrant was hired by the state), he will be sentenced in Ukraine for up to 20 years for complicity in the activities of a terrorist organization.

According to the Convention on the Laws and Customs of War on Land, migrants who dig trenches are not equated with combatants (combatants). But, digging trenches for money and being citizens of another country, they violate the laws and customs of war and become criminals. Therefore, they cannot surrender as prisoners of war, but can only turn themselves in to the legal authorities of Ukraine – and after that receive a life sentence.

It is difficult to say whether the construction of facilities for a clearly military purpose abroad will be interpreted in the homeland of migrants as participation in the conflict. However, the Embassy of Kyrgyzstan in Russia warned that, according to the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic, the participation of citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic in hostilities on the territory of foreign states is punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years with confiscation of property.

In addition, for participation in armed conflicts or hostilities on the territory of a foreign state, a citizen of Kyrgyzstan can be deprived of citizenship.

Now the danger of punishment at home may seem insignificant to diggers, because Kyrgyzstan is critically dependent on Russia. In 2022, the transfers of individuals from there to the republic set a historical record, exceeding $2.7 billion…The authorities of Kyrgyzstan clearly do not want to quarrel with Moscow and are selective about the participation of their citizens in hostilities. Those who fight for Ukraine or simply support it, the authorities tend to punish, but those who fight for Russia do not. Thus, nothing is heard about investigations into the deaths of Kyrgyz citizens who fought with Ukraine on the side of the Russian Federation…However, the foreign policy environment can change quickly. If at some point it becomes profitable for the authorities of Kyrgyzstan to demonstrate neutrality or a critical attitude towards Russian aggression, the citizens of the country, who today are digging trenches in the occupied Ukrainian lands, may end up in prison. Or lose citizenship.


[i] A few resources have become available for Central Asians who are illegally drafted or not allowed to leave Russia, including contact information for organizations in Russia that help migrant workers. These have been distributed through media in the region amid reports that Central Asians have been drafted or denied permission to leave Russia. See: “Что делать, если вас пытаются мобилизовать или не выпускают из России? (What to do if you are possibly mobilized or not allowed to leave Russia),” Asia-Plus, 9 March 2023.

Image Information:

Image: Migrant workers in Moscow, Russia.
Attribution: CCA 2.0