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A Popular Tiktok Account Is Encouraging Africans to Join the Russian Army. Here’s What We Found About It

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Russian Army Recruitment: Mystery Shrouds Leaflet, Africans Donning Military Uniforms

A two-minute, forty-one-second video on TikTok is urging Africans to apply for a Russian visa in order to enlist in the Russian Army and fight in the conflict that is currently raging in Ukraine. Young Africans were encouraged to apply for free Russian visas by a man in the video who overlaid an image of Russian President Vladmir Putin and passports from African nations.

The video, titled ‘Putin issued a visa free entrance to every African citizen and a crazy wages to every Africans citizens [sic] that wanna the Russian Army’, was uploaded on March 5, 2024, and has received over a million views. In the video a young man lauds Russian President Vladimir Putin and declares that he has granted a waiver to any African who wishes to travel to Russia.

Some comments in the comment section encourage young Africans to travel, while others discourage anyone from travelling to Russia to enlist in the Russian Army in order to fight in Ukraine. In one case, the account owner replied to someone who said he ought to apply because he wasn’t appreciated in Africa.

Caption: Screenshot of Kinzhal of Monrovia Pro-Russia video

In the video, the account handler Kinzhal_of_Monrovia makes a bold declaration, stating that individuals could begin applying in April and could go with their families. In addition, he claims that those who migrate to Russia and enlist in the army will be paid “crazy wages”.

The number of views on the video is increasing daily, yet many questions remain unanswered. However, who is this Kinzhal_of_Monrovia, and what is his purpose? Is he making a false or sincere announcement? Thousands of replies to his video have prompted impassioned and contentious concerns regarding his motives and the impact of his campaigning. These responses have created curiosity and concerns about his video.

Who Is Kinzhal_of_Morovia, and What Is His Agenda?

The video, which is the most viewed on the account, was posted to TikTok on March 5, 2024, by Kinzhal_of_Monrovia, aka UNIVERSAL CHILD. We carried out a digital analysis on the account and found multiple false claims in videos posted by the account.

Kinzhal_of_Monrovia is not your typical TikTok user. With over 177.3k followers, over two million likes and millions of views and reactions to his videos, he has a substantial following and influence on the app. This specific video has already had over a million views, 69.5k likes and over 7,453 comments, demonstrating its widespread popularity.

In every video, Kinzhal_of_Monrovia has an imposing presence and a gripping story to go along with his reporting. It is indisputable that his video on Russia, Putin and Africa demonstrates his influence in the digital sphere. His story strikes a deep chord.

Caption: Kinzhal of Monrovia Tiktok account

As can be seen in his multiple videos, Kinzhal_of_Monrovia once made a claim – without offering any supporting evidence – that the late Namibian President Hage Geingob, who passed away from cancer, was poisoned while visiting the US, and he connected his passing to the finding of oil in the nation. Prior to his passing on February 4, 2024, Geingob was scheduled to travel to the United States for medical treatment, but he never did.

The influencer also falsely claimed in a video he published on March 2, 2024, that 7,000 Nigerian nurses would be sent back to their home country of Nigeria from the United Kingdom at the request of the Nigerian government. The video has been viewed more than 400,ooo times.

He was also the source of a viral claim that the United Kingdom government arrested and planned to deport Emdee Tiamiyu, a Nigerian based in the United Kingdom, on allegations of fraud. He had alleged that Tiamiyu defrauded the UK government of £160,000 asylum grants. Kinzhal made the claim without providing evidence.

Tiamiyu, a YouTuber, gained prominence online after he stated in a 2023 interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that Nigerians frequently apply for student visas in the nation to flee the economic realities in their own country and not to actually study.

His claim on Tiamiyu’s arrest went viral on social media platforms and was also published by Leadership newspaper and News Central on their websites.

We found no evidence this ever occurred, as there is no mention of his arrest on the Metropolitan Police website or its social media pages. In addition, Tiamiyu has kept up with updates on his YouTube page, and asylum seekers in the UK are only given £49.18 a week by the government. The money and other benefits are accessible to asylum seekers and every member of their household, according to the government’s official website.

Using a variety of digital analysis techniques, we attempted to identify Kinzhal_of_Monrovia, and we discovered that, although it has since been banned by Tiktok, an account called Dagger of Monrovia had previously existed and functioned similarly to the manner in which Kinzhal_of_Monrovia presented his video. The account still exists on Facebook but has become dormant.

In addition, Kinzhal_of_Monrovia acknowledged that he created a new account in response to a user’s inquiry about the fate of his old account. He informed the user that his former account had been removed by Tiktok. The account was Dagger of Monrovia, which we found during the investigation.

When we searched on Google for the profile of Dagger of Monrovia, we came across a claim from October 2023 that the AFP fact-checked. Dagger of Monrovia had uploaded a video purporting to show that two Nigerians had been arrested for allegedly stealing “$1.6 million from their Palestinian boss lady in Gaza”. In actuality, the video showed two Nigerians being detained in India for cybercrime rather than money theft in Gaza.

Dagger of Monrovia dormant Facebook page was created in October 2023 and featured multiple videos from the now-banned TikTok account, with the location indicated as Minsk, Belarus.

 

Caption: Kinzhal of Monrovia dormant facebook account

An additional search for the Kinzhal_of_Monrovia profile name on Facebook turned up an account with the same name as the Tiktok account, but with content exclusively centred around the life of a man purportedly residing in Paynesville, Liberia. The Facebook account was created in January 2023 and follows and likes the Dagger of Monrovia Facebook page.

Caption: Kinzhal facebook, Tiktok and X accounts

Dagger 0f Monrovia’s Facebook page profile image could be found on Kinzhal’s Facebook account.

Caption: The picture on the Dagger of Monrovia account can be found on Kinzhal’s Facebook profile

We used FaceID and PimEye to confirm that the person in the Kinzhal_of_Monrovia videos on Tiktok was Kinzhal of Monrovia on Facebook.

Charley Sims is the username associated with the Gmail account on Dagger of Monrovia. The profile picture on the Gmail account can also be found on Kinzhal’s Facebook account.

The picture on the gmail account found on Dagger’s Facebook page can also be found on Kinzhal’s Facebook profile account.

We also did a Google search on the name Charley Sims and we discovered an X account that was last updated in 2018.

Additionally, we found an X account with the username @CharleySim31 that belonged to Kinzhal_of_Monrovia.

We also discovered a two-and-a-half-minute video republished by another account from the deleted Dagger of Monrovia Tiktok account, which was used to encourage West African passport holders to apply for Russian visas on the grounds that Putin was providing free visas to anyone from the continent. The man in the video mentioned that Russia needed qualified workers but made no mention of enlisting in the Russian Army. The video was also published on Facebook in October 2023.

Is Russia Offering Free Visas to Africans?

In order to verify Kinzhal’s Monrovia claim, we subjected it to an internet search and found a September 2023 report published by Tass, a Russian news agency, which revealed that Russia was working on a visa-free regime with all African countries.

Oleg Ozerov, Ambassador-at-Large of the Russian Foreign Ministry and head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum, told TASS that Russia had visa-free agreements with six African countries and was working in this direction with other states of the continent as well.

We also checked the website of the President of Russia and found no statement from President Putin about visa-free agreements with African countries or young Africans joining the Russian Army.

There have been reports about Africans fighting in Ukraine for Russia. In June 2023, Reuters reported about how three African nationals were killed fighting for Russia in Ukraine. The report traced the stories of the three African nationals from Tanzania, Zambia and Côte d’Ivoire. The reporting shows they came to Russia in hope of advancement, fell into crime and were jailed on drug convictions.

There have been fairly documented cases of African prisoners in Russia being recruited by Wagner, but there wasn’t any online sighting of online recruitment for fighters until April 5, 2024, when a leaflet with a black man in the Russian Army ceremonial uniform allegedly from the Oryol regional government (Oryol, or Orel, is a city in western Russia) appeared online calling for foreigners to join a special unit for foreigners in the army.

April 2024 is also the month Kinzhal_of_Monrovia said Africans could start applying to join the Russian army. In an effort to verify the authenticity of the leaflet, it was subjected to Google Lens, a Google image recognition technology designed to use visual analysis based on a neural network to bring up relevant information about objects.

It was discovered through the search that the leaflet gained popularity through SOTA, an independent Russian media organisation that focuses mostly on Telegram. SOTA has more than 138,478 subscribers.

 

SOTA got it from a channel called Орлец, translated to Eagle in English (Google Translate), whose description states that it is a local history resource about Oryol. Eagle has 2,337 subscribers. Орлец also got it from another Telegram channel called Беседка Орлеца or Gazebo Orletsa (Google translate). Gazebo Orletsa has 233 subscribers.

Caption: The leaflet uploaded on Telegram on April 5

The owner of the Gazebo Orletsa, in response to an inquiry on whether the leaflet was authentic, said he got it from one of his followers in Oryol and couldn’t confirm its authenticity, stating further that no one had disputed the leaflet since he uploaded it.

Since then, there have been videos and images of Africans in Russian Army uniforms. A video of a Nigerian of eastern origin in a Russian Army uniform with a Wagner patch and a Biafran flag was also among the videos on the internet of Africans joining the Russian Army.

We sent multiple messages to Kinzhal_of_Monrovia on Facebook (on March 8), and the Gmail address (on March 9) found on Dagger of Monrovia, inquiring about the Tiktok account and his reason for encouraging young Africans to apply for Russian visas and join the Russian Army, but as of the time of filing this report, he hasn’t responded. Though acknowledged as seen, the message sent to the Kinzhal_of_Monrovia Tiktok account on March 9 received no reply.

A message sent to the Russian embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, on March 18 also received no response. Also, messages sent to the two emails found on Oryol regional government website inquiring about the leaflet were not delivered.

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