Uzbekistan warns citizens not to join foreign armies amid Ukraine conflict

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TASHKENT (Reuters) – Uzbekistan’s state prosecutors warned citizens against joining foreign armies after Russia offered fast-track citizenship to those who sign up and Ukraine said it had captured Uzbeks fighting alongside Russians.

Those fighting in military conflicts abroad faced criminal prosecution under Uzbek law, the Central Asian nation’s Prosecutor General’s office said in a statement late on Wednesday.

A video circulated in Ukrainian social media this month showed two Uzbeks captured in fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces; the detainees said they had been recruited in Moscow.

Hundreds of thousands of Uzbeks live in or regularly travel to Russia to find work and provide for their families at home; some work illegally and risk being deported.

Russia’s parliament passed a law this week offering fast-track citizenship to foreigners who join its army, part of a broader drive to strengthen the military amid the stalled Ukrainian campaign which also included partial mobilisation.

With a predominantly young population of 35 million, Uzbekistan is the most populous ex-Soviet nation after Russia and Ukraine, and many Uzbeks are fluent in Russian.

Reporting by Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Kim Coghill

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