Mass shooting in Belgorod exposes Russia’s forced mobilization of migrants

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Ehson Aminzoda seemed to be following the path of many Central Asian immigrants in Russia — initially working as a bricklayer after arriving in Moscow earlier this year, then at a local restaurant, saving his modest earnings in hope of returning to his native Tajikistan to marry. On Oct. 10, he headed out to meet friends, and was seen leaving the Lyublino subway station in southeast Moscow. Then, he disappeared.

Five days later, according to Russian authorities, Aminzoda, 24, was in Belgorod, just 24 miles from the Ukrainian border, where he and another man, Mehrob Rakhmonov, 23, allegedly opened fire at a military training base, killing 11and injuring 15 others.

The Russian defense ministry said the shooting took place during a training session for a group of volunteers “who wished to participate in the military operation in Ukraine.” Russian authorities quickly branded the incident a terrorist attack, deliberately highlighting the nationality of the alleged gunmen, who were Tajik.

Officially, little else has been disclosed about the shooting, which has been overshadowed by the ongoing death and destruction of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

But rights activists and relatives of the alleged gunmen believe they were forcibly conscripted. They said the mere presence of the two Tajik men at the base in Belgorod points to pervasive abuses against migrant workers in Russia and to long-simmering ethnic tensions, which have wors