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India demands early release of its nationals stuck on Russia-Ukraine frontlines

Reports suggest hundreds of Indians have been deceived into fighting in war zones in Russia

Shweta Sharma
Friday 23 February 2024 11:39 GMT
Related New Delhi audience laughs as Sergey Lavrov says Ukraine ‘launched’ war against Russia

India has urged its nationals to “stay away” from the Russia-Ukraine war and called on Russian authorities to expedite the release of its citizens working for the army on the frontlines.

The Indian Foreign Ministry on Friday acknowledged that it was “aware that a few Indian nationals” have signed up for “support jobs” with the Russian army.

It came following a report by the Indian newspaper The Hindu reported that more than 100 Indian nationals have been recruited to fight alongside the Russian army in the war zones with many of them conned by agents to work as “army security helpers”.

“The Indian Embassy has regularly taken up this matter with the relevant Russian authorities for their early discharge,” said Randhir Jaiswal, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, in a brief statement.

“We urge all Indian nationals to exercise due caution and stay away from this conflict."

The Indian embassy in Russia said: “All such cases that were brought to the notice of the Embassy were taken up with the Russian authorities immediately.”

In its campaign to recruit more personnel in the war zones and fill gaps with mounting losses in its two-year-old war with Ukraine, Russia is reported to have attracted volunteers from countries like India, Nepal and Pakistan among others

Last month, Nepal stopped issuing permits for its citizens to work in Russia and Ukraine indefinitely, following the deaths of at least 10 Nepali soldiers while serving in the Russian army. More than 200 are believed to be trapped on the frontlines, unable to return, with their families demanding the safe return of their young sons.

Military medics give first aid to wounded Ukrainian soldiers near Bakhmut, Ukraine (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

A Russian Defence Ministry official who was not named told The Hindu that 100 Indians were recruited by the Russian Army at its Moscow recruitment centre and more are believed to be recruited from other centres.

“The workers undergo a psychometric test and are explained the risks before they are sent for training. Since they are hired as helpers, it all depends on the command to which they will be sent,” the defence official said.

“It could either be to the battlefield or they may be asked to work as porters. Their consent is taken. A background check is conducted to ensure no spies are recruited.”

The Indian nationals were promised jobs as support staff and not fighting in the war zones. However, they ended up in training centres after they were made to sign misleading translations of documents.

The report said that at least three people from different parts of the country were conned into fighting for the Russian Army.

At least one person is said to have died in the fighting on the Russian border, the report added.

A man in his early 20s from Uttar Pradesh said three of them have been receiving basic training in handling arms and ammunition by the army and were sent off to Rostov oblast in southwestern Russia in January to face bullets.

“We arrived here in November 2023, were made to sign contracts, which said that we are being hired as army security helpers, the man said.

“We were categorically told that we will not be sent to the battlefield and promised Rs 195,000 (£1,857) salary and Rs50,000 (£476) additional bonus per month. Except for the Rs50,000 (£476) bonus for two months, I have not received any money,” he said.

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