Kazakhstan has announced it had uncovered online efforts to recruit its citizens in the Kremlin-friendly Central Asian country to fight alongside Russian forces in Ukraine.
The warning from regional officials late Thursday comes on the back of reports in local media that Kazakhstan citizens have been killed in Ukraine.
Both the Russian military and the Wagner mercenary group, which recently led a short-lived insurrection in Russia, have targeted citizens of the ex-Soviet region to join their ranks.
Prosecutors in the northern Kostanay region, which borders Russia and is home to a large Russian minority, warned residents not to “succumb” to attempts on social media to enlist men into Moscow’s forces.
The region is home to some 880,000 with some 41 percent of those ethnic Russians, government figures show.
“On the territory of our region, attempts were made to recruit the local population to the territory of the Russian Federation in order to participate in the armed conflict in Ukraine,” the region’s prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
Astana has not recognized east and southern Ukrainian regions occupied by Moscow as part of Russia. But the country has been accused of helping Moscow circumvent sanctions and its leadership remains close to the Kremlin.
Local prosecutors also said they had noted “separatist calls regarding the integrity of the territory of our country” on social media.
“In order to ensure public security, protect the rights and freedoms of citizens, and prevent the destabilization of the socio-political situation, we urge you not to succumb to such provocative statements and appeals in the media and social networks,” their statement said.
It warned that taking part in a foreign armed conflict and making separatist calls — including on social media — is illegal and punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
“We call on citizens and the mass media, and social media users, to refrain from any of the above offences,” it added.