FILE PHOTO: Russian servicemen take part in a combat training
© Sputnik / Vitaliy AnkovFILE PHOTO: Russian servicemen take part in a combat training
The news agency had reported that foreign students have been threatened with deportation unless they enlist to take part in the conflict

Reports that Moscow is forcing thousands of foreign students, including some from Nigeria, to fight alongside Russian troops against Ukraine in exchange for visa extensions, are false, the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday.

In an article on Tuesday Bloomberg claimed that the Kremlin had adopted "tactics first deployed by the Wagner mercenary group," by which Russian officials "threatened" to deny visas to African students and young workers who refuse to join the military.

The outlet provided no evidence but cited anonymous "European officials familiar with the matter" who claimed that some Africans in Russia on work visas have also been detained and forced to choose between deportation and fighting. "Some of those people had been able to bribe officials to stay in the country and still avoid military service," according to one of the Bloomberg sources. The report, which has been reprinted by several outlets, has since trended on social media, particularly in Nigeria.

In its statement, the West African nation's foreign ministry said "there has not been any reported case of conscription of Nigerian students nor indeed of other African students to fight" for Russia in the Ukraine conflict. "The newspaper reports are therefore false and misleading and should therefore be disregarded," the ministry declared.

On Wednesday, Russia's embassy in Abuja thanked the African nation's authorities for dismissing the publication, saying it was "bewildered" to see the article in several Nigerian media outlets citing the "dubious American news agency Bloomberg."

Bloomberg has a "history of spreading anti-Russian fake news," according to the diplomatic mission. "Such news is not only false but also damages Russia-Nigeria educational cooperation by misleading numerous scholarship and grant applicants as well as their partners, who could be extremely concerned by such fakes," it stated.

According to the embassy, Nigerian students face "no difficulties" in extending their visas while studying in Russia. More than 30,000 African students come to study in Russia every year, according to recent figures reported by Rossotrudnichestvo, the cultural support and humanitarian cooperation agency.

As of December 2022, 500 Nigerian students were enrolled in Russian universities as part of a bilateral education scholarship agreement between the two governments, while over 1,500 more attended Russian institutions as private students, Abuja's embassy in Moscow has stated.