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Russia has been recruiting foreign migrants detained at its border with Finland for military service in Ukraine, as evidenced by several cases reported by the BBC. This practice involves coercing individuals in pre-deportation detention centers to sign contracts for army service. While this tactic is not new, the numbers increased significantly as foreign migrants arrived at Russia’s border with Finland. Finland temporarily closed its Russian border crossings, accusing Moscow of using migrants as part of a destabilization campaign after Finland joined NATO.

In the past three weeks, 236 people in Karelia, one of the three Russian regions bordering Finland, were arrested for staying in Russia without valid visas. The pattern was similar in the other two border regions of Leningrad and Murmansk. Migrants, including a Somali man identified as Awad, detained for immigration violations, were approached by military representatives and offered a job in the Russian army, promising good pay, medical care, and permission to stay in Russia upon completing a one-year army contract.

The influx of migrants at Finland’s border led to accusations that Russia encouraged the surge, bypassing visa checks and organizing the distribution of bicycles for migrants. Awad, who had arrived in Russia in mid-July and attempted to enter Poland via Belarus, hired a taxi in November to reach the Finnish border. After being detained, he and others were pressured to sign army contracts to avoid deportation.

The report mentions an Iraqi man facing deportation who claimed he was also pressured to sign an army contract due to the danger he faced in Iraq. According to a representative from the Somali community in Belarus, at least 60 Somali nationals in Russian detention centers were approached by military recruiters, with some reportedly agreeing to sign contracts with the Russian army.

Awad and his group realized they were being sent to fight in Ukraine when they reached a military camp at the border. Despite threats of long prison sentences, the detainees demanded the annulment of their contracts. Some received letters confirming the cancellation, but they remain in the military camp. Awad insists he was deceived and did not fully understand the contract, emphasizing that he is an asylum seeker, not a soldier. The BBC has sought comment from the Russian interior ministry regarding the allegations.

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Wildfires in Greece have tragically led to the loss of 20 lives and are still raging out of control near Athens and the Evros region close to the Turkish border. Among those killed, 18 are believed to be refugees and migrants who had recently crossed the border and sought refuge in forests north of Alexandroupolis. Greece has expressed deep condolences for the deaths occurring in the Dadia forest near the Turkish border. The fires have been ongoing for five days and have extended along the coast and near the city. Efforts to contain the fires are being hampered by strong winds and scorching temperatures of up to 40°C (104°F).

The victims’ bodies were discovered near a shack close to the village of Avantas, north of Alexandroupolis, by the fire service. The fire service and local authorities had issued evacuation warnings through emergency services. The victims are believed to have recently crossed the border from Turkey along the River Evros, which is a common route for migrants and refugees attempting to enter the European Union. The risk of wildfires adds to the many dangers migrants and refugees face in their journey, including violence, arrest, and drowning in the Mediterranean.

The victims are predominantly male, with two of them being minors. The bodies were found within a relatively small radius, and their identification is expected to be challenging, necessitating the involvement of their relatives. Some individuals had been attempting to follow a well-established path through the forest to avoid detection.

Tensions have arisen in the local communities as some residents blame migrants for causing the fires. However, there is no concrete evidence to suggest that migrants were responsible for starting the Dadia forest fire. A video showing a man “arresting” migrants and refugees and accusing them of arson provoked outrage in Greece, leading to the arrest of the man behind the video and others involved.

In response to the tragic events, the Supreme Court Prosecutor initiated inquiries into both the causes of the fires in the Evros region and incidents of alleged racist violence against migrants following the deaths in the Dadia forest.

As the fires continue to spread, evacuations have been conducted in various areas, including villages near Alexandroupolis and parts of the capital city, Athens. The situation remains challenging for firefighters, compounded by the evacuation of nursing homes and the destruction of homes in some areas.

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A German man has been taken into custody in France after his wife was allegedly held captive for a period of 12 years in their residence. The woman, also of German nationality, was discovered in a bedroom within the apartment, partially clothed and with a shaved head, according to an AFP report citing French police sources.

The bedroom in which the woman was found had been sealed off with wire mesh within their home located in Forbach, near the border with Germany. The 55-year-old man is under suspicion for charges related to abduction and other offenses.

Authorities revealed that the 53-year-old woman had managed to access a phone and contacted German police, who then alerted their French counterparts.

Local prosecutor Olivier Glady described the woman’s health as “not good” after an initial examination. He also noted the presence of around nine cats in the apartment, dismissing claims from French media that the apartment contained bars used for confining the wife, clarifying that these were intended to prevent the cats from escaping.

Contrary to earlier reports, Glady stated that no signs of violence or blood were found at the scene. The unemployed suspect had previously worked in the German industry. He is currently held in Metz, an eastern French city, according to BFMTV.

Neighbors interviewed by Germany’s Bild newspaper indicated that the man had informed them of his wife’s cancer diagnosis, explaining her screams of pain as a result of the illness. A neighbor named Alicia characterized the man as “polite and nice,” while another witness, Erika, had not seen the woman in approximately a decade.

Reports from French media mentioned the discovery of a diary-like notebook within the apartment, suggesting the man had documented his actions, including instances when he provided food to his wife.

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