You are currently viewing African mercenaries fighting for and against Ukraine: a few facts

African mercenaries fighting for and against Ukraine: a few facts

In the war in Ukraine it rains insults from and to Russia and it is hard to find out what of all those rumours is true. Now there are claims of the UK recruiting African and Middle East mercenaries to fight against Russia for £20,000. We are going through the available data today to see how much of that is true, how much the hired soldiers earn and if they return home or die in Ukraine.

Before we go to the mercenaries I want to mention President Putin’s words about Ukraine that didn’t exist in history. The USSR created Ukraine, he said. We have dived before into the history of Ukraine and indeed most of the time the west of it belonged to a greater piece of land that also changed the whole time and the east to another. That doesn’t mean Ukraine isn’t a legitimate country now, since the USSR itself gave it the land it possesses. Yet there is reason to investigate if Ukraine’s successive governments have been capable of ruling that country, which would give a big NO for an answer. On any level the poor country has been a mess and a failed state. This could mean the Russian-speaking parts of it should be taken away from it to form their own state or to belong again to Russia. There is certainly reason for a solid discussion about that.


Is the United Kingdom recruiting mercenaries from Africa and Middle East nations?

Today I found this tweet and wondered if it is true or not. Most of the times this man tells facts, but this is so strange! He claims the United Kingdom is trying to recruit African mercenaries to fight in Ukraine against the Russian army. When I tried to find more information about it, I found nothing in any media, but there was an African forum, Nairaland, where the recruitment was discussed. The payment is said to be £20,000 and the contract is permanent, which seems a bit weird. The mercenaries are recruited for a fight in Ukraine with a permanent contract. Does that mean the UK knows they are going to die there? Do they plan more wars in which the mercenaries will also have to fight? Or is the recruitment fake? Even weirder: I can’t find any information about it in any country of the Middle East. Not even Russian websites talk about it. We will get to know more about it in a few days, I hope. You can find Nairaland Forum here.


In the meantime Ukraine itself also hires mercenaries from African countries. Here on the website of Modern Diplomacy it tells about young African men, who think they will return from Ukraine millionaires. Well, I looked up how much money Ukraine pays its foreign mercenaries: $820 until $2734 plus most of them are said to die within a couple of days. Strolling through the news to see how many of these mercenaries are fighting for Ukraine, there are numbers from 6,000 to 17,000. And about 20,000 fighting against Ukraine for Wagner. A neatly made-up pdf from the Russian Ministery of Defense dated the 17th of June 2022 gives exact numbers among who not even 300 from African countries. Most were from Nigeria. More research is required!


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Numbers and facts!

First there is an enormously long article by War On The Rocks, a platform for analysis and debate on strategy, defense, and foreign affairs, as it explains about itself. It utters worries for the time the war in Ukraine will stop and all those foreign mercenaries that have fought in the war will look for new ‘jobs’ to fight for this or for that in the world. Who pays best, will get them. They are afraid these young men will create civil wars in their own countries or fight for terrorism and such. I think they certainly have a point here, but first we have to find out how many mercenaries we are actually talking about. This article doesn’t mention numbers at all.

But! Here is an article from ICCT – International Center for Counter Terrorism – from July last year. It states that Ukraine claimed it had recruited over 20,000 foreign mercenaries by then. On the other side Russian President Vladimir Putin said 16,000 fighters from the Middle East were willing to fight for Russia. In the meantime we know that Chechnya sent its army to assist the Russians. Russian press agency Tass says 20,000 Chechnian fighters have fought for the Russian side and by then (November 2022) there were still 9,000 Chechnyan fighters left in Ukraine. Problem is that after last autumn it is a lot harder to find any numbers.


Foreign fighters for the Russian side

About the Wagner troops that fought for Bakhmut it is said by the US Security Council that it has about 50,000 fighters. This number is found on many serious websites, so that seems true. The American Security Council also states about 10,000 of these fighters are regular soldiers and 40,000 are allegedly convicts. This is a very strange statement, so let us look further.

The American Foreign Policy Research Institute claims that 30,000 Wagner fighters have been killed in the Ukraine war and again no evidence or whatsoever. Just claims in the air. Now that Bakhmut is in Russian hands and the Wagner Group is slowly retiring itself from there, many media outlets claim the group allegedly has many mercenaries in Sudan. Tass tells in April this year that its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin told them there is not even one mercenary from them in Sudan since two years.


Foreign fighters for the Ukrainian side

In October 2022 again Tass told us they had official numbers of around 5,000 Polish mercenaries fighting on the Ukrainian side. It was also confirmed there were mercenaries from 34 countries fighting for Ukraine. A few months before that Tass talked about mercenaries from even 64 countries fighting for Ukraine. The Wikipedia’s page about Foreign fighters in Ukraine only gives numbers for the period in the Ukraine-Russia war from 2014-2019: 17,241 of who only 3879 were fighting for Ukraine. For the war since 2022 not even an estimation.

In February this year tells us in the beginning the Ukrainian government said there were about 20,000 foreigners fighting in their International Legion. Almost a year later the number is estimated on about 2,000, but the Ukrainian government never gave any information anymore about foreign fighters. The website Russia Matters tells us much more precisely about numbers of foreign fighters in Ukraine, again in June 2022. About 7,000, the Russian authorities said, have joined the Ukrainian side. 2,000 of them were killed, 1,800 left back home and the rest was still there. The article also mentioned there were 22,000 Ukrainian fighters from abroad, who returned to their country to fight against Russia.


How many soldiers died in Ukraine?

That is an even more complicated question, that sets lots of imaginative minds at work. You won’t believe it if you see the numbers of dead people mentioned. It is a shame that there are just no data available. The reason for that must be either shame on probably both sides for how many soldiers lost their lives. What else can it be?

  • BBC on 2 May 2023 claims there are 20,000 Russian troops dead since last December. 80,000 were injured according to them.
  • abc News tells the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claims the Russian government said 6,000 Russian soldiers died until last September, but he thinks Russia lost about 110,000 until that time and about 145,000 until April this year. He didn’t say why he thought that or where the numbers came from.
  • New York Times claims without any reference in February this year there would be not less than 200,000 Russian soldiers who died. In November there were allegedly about 120,000 on both sides, according to American intelligence.
  • Also February this year: Eurasian Times claims there are more than 300,000 dead, again according to American estimations without any evidence or explanation. The number is also not specified, so that we don’t know on which side these men allegedly died.
  • April 2023: Business Insider claims Russia lost more than twice as many soldiers than Ukraine, based on some “leaked US Intelligence reports”, that aren’t showed or referred to. Russia would have lost between 189,500 and 223,000 soldiers and Ukraine between 124,500 and 131,700. Note: it is Victoria Nuland from the US Department of State (that is the Ministery of Foreign Affairs) who says it and she has told other things that weren’t true. She also organised (with others) the sabotage to the Nord Stream pipeline last autumn.
  • Russia says Ukraine has 7 to 8 times more deaths than their army. Scott Ritter, a former United Nations Special Commission weapons inspector, says there are about 300,000 losses on the Ukrainian side. He said the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian armed forces Valery Zaluzhny admitted in a meeting with Ritters there are 257,000 dead and about 83,000 missing out of whom 60,000 are presumed dead.


It is not that I believe Russia more than any other country, but the Russians do provide information about everything, even if it is hard to find on the internet, because Google censores their websites.


The Wikipedia gives totally different numbers

And then suddenly another page of the Wikipedia gives totally different numbers of casualties – dead and injured soldiers, again by US Intelligence (and others). Between 50,000 and 58,000 Russian soldiers would have died from 24 February 2022 until May 2023. See underneath a copy of their page. These numbers seem much more realistic to me. Would these be the numbers we were looking for? No matter what you think of it, this is just a horrible war that has taken thousands and thousands of victims. Both civilian and military and from many countries as well. High time to stop this madness!

Casualties of the Russo-Ukrainian War – Wikipedia



A shame!

It is a crying shame that there are just no really reliable and confirmed by more than one source data known about how many people have fought and are still fighting in Ukraine. Even worse: we don’t even know approximately how many people have died there in that terrible war. The only facts are that Ukraine had more than 20,000 foreign soldiers in the beginning of the war of whom we don’t have an idea what they have become and Russia’s Wagner Group has around 50,000 soldiers fighting in mostly Bakhmut. There have also been another 20,000 Chechnyan soldiers fighting for Russia. Russian soldiers are brought back home every two weeks and replaced by others, I heard Russian soldiers say many times in Patrick Lancaster’s videos. Lancaster is an independent journalist – not paid by the Russian government, but crowdfunded – who lives in Donbass and reports from there what is going on there on the Russian side.

Let us please end this war as soon as possible, because Ukraine doesn’t seem to have many men left and consists of millions of broken families. They need at least a generation time to come by and the world needs rest and peace.



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Anastasía Vassiliou, MA

Anastasía (Natassa) Vassiliou, born in Athens, obtained a Master's degree in Greek & French Literature and studied music in Thessaloniki, Greece. She speaks 7+ languages. Natassa ran a successful business in in-company trainings when she suddenly got paralysed. Out of love for her children she found out how to cure all diseases and healed many patients including herself. Nowadays she runs news website Untold Times, where she shares world news and gives fantastic analyses about hot topics.

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