by Kateryna Mishchenko
In a recent development in Kyrgyzstan, a resident of the Naryn region has been detained for his involvement in the Wagner Private Military Company (PMC) and participation in the conflict in Ukraine. The individual, Beknazar Borugul uulu, joined the ranks of Wagner while serving a sentence in a Russian prison, highlighting the complex dynamics of recruitment within the PMC.
The Naryn Regional Court handed down a 5-year prison sentence to Borugul uulu, finding him guilty of participating in armed conflicts or military actions on the territory of a foreign State, as stipulated in Article 256 of the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic. The court’s decision, rendered on December 7, was disclosed to the public on January.
27-year-old resident of the Naryn region who fought in Ukraine as part of the Wagner PMC was arrested August 2023. His wife explained that he went to Russia for employment, ended up in prison on drug-related charges, and was recruited for war. Three weeks after returning to Kyrgyzstan, he was detained.
This marks the second instance of the arrest of a participant in the war in Ukraine in Kyrgyzstan. In May 2023, the Pervomaysky District Court in Bishkek sentenced Askar Kubanychbek uulu, a resident of the city of Balykchy, to 10 years in prison for participating in armed conflicts of other states for remuneration or mercenarism (Part 2 of Article 416 of the Criminal Code). In August of the same year, the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan overturned the man’s sentence, sending Kubanychbek uulu’s case for a new review to the district court. According to the convicted man’s father, his son had been working in Russia for the past 10 years and aimed to obtain Russian citizenship.
On January 4, 2024, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree allowing foreigners who have signed contracts for military service to obtain Russian citizenship. The decree also ensures that foreigners who participated in military operations as part of Russian military formations cannot be extradited to their home Country after acquiring citizenship, protecting them from potential criminal prosecution.
Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan’s authorities have consistently urged their citizens not to participate in armed conflicts on the territory of other States, emphasizing that such actions are criminally punishable. The laws of Kyrgyzstan explicitly prohibit its citizens from participating “without the permission of the relevant authorities in armed conflicts of other states with the aim of obtaining material remuneration.”
The exact number of Kyrgyz citizens currently involved in the war in Ukraine as part of regular Russian forces or private military companies is unknown. According to data from the National Statistics Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic from 2022, there are over a million labor migrants from Kyrgyzstan in Russia.
After the Russian army suffered significant losses in Ukraine in the spring of 2022, reports revealed that the Wagner PMC was recruiting prisoners for deployment to war zones. Promises of monthly payments, Russian citizenship, and expungement of criminal records were made to those serving sentences, with contracts typically lasting six months. However, revelations from relatives of deceased Wagner members indicate that not all received the promised payments.
The exact number of Kyrgyzstanis from Russian penitentiary institutions participating in the war remains undisclosed. Kyrgyz Radio Liberty reports at least 10 Kyrgyz citizens have died in the ranks of Russian forces in Ukraine, while the Russian service of BBC, in its investigation, states that 19 citizens of Kyrgyzstan lost their lives in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
To learn more, read our Ukraine conflict factsheet
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