Nepalese and Indians ‘duped’ into fighting in Ukraine

Dozens of Indian citizens and thousands of Nepalese nationals have been lured to Russia with false promises of high-paying jobs and even citizenship — only to be drafted into the army and sent to the front lines in Ukraine with minimal training, family members said.

Mohammad Afsan, a 30-year-old clothing salesman from Hyderabad, India, had traveled to Russia in early November after being recruited by an agent running a popular YouTube channel to work as a security guard or helper, The Statesmen reported.

Afsan, who has a wife and two children, was promised a monthly salary of almost $550 for the first three months and Russian citizenship after a year.

Mohammad Afsan, a 30-year-old clothing salesman from Hyderabad, India, seen in a photo of his wife, had been killed during fighting in Ukraine. AFP via Getty Images
Asfan, right, is survived by his wife and two children. Presentation

But once he arrived in Moscow, Afsan was reportedly forced to join the army and sent to an outpost on the Russian-Ukrainian border, where he was shot dead, the Indian embassy confirmed on Wednesday.

“He had no idea he was being sent to a war zone,” Afsan’s brother, Mohammad Imran, told The Guardian.

Afsan is at least the second known Indian national to be killed in action in Ukraine after allegedly being tricked into fighting for Russia.

Last month, Hemil Ashwinbhai Mangukiya, 23, from Gujarat, was killed in an airstrike in Ukraine.

Like Afsan, Mangukiya had been recruited through the YouTube channel Baba Vlogs, which had 300,000 subscribers, for a security job in Russia – but instead he was allegedly strapped into a month-long military training camp and then shipped off to the war zone . return.

“I think he hid from us the danger he was in,” Mangukiya’s father, Ashwin Mangukiya, told the newspaper. “Our whole family is devastated by this. We are still trying to get his dead body back.”

Earlier this week, a video went viral showing seven men from Punjab claiming they were tricked into fighting for Russia against their will – and pleading with the Indian government to bring them home.

Azad Yousuf Kumar, 31, from Kashmir, had accepted a job in Dubai but was instead taken to Russia and forced to fight in Ukraine. Faisal Bashir/SOPA Images/Shutterstock

The huddled men, dressed in military fatigues, said they had traveled to Russia as tourists to celebrate the New Year in late December but were taken by a travel agent to neighboring Belarus, where they were detained because they did not have visas.

The corrupt cop is said to have persuaded the stranded men to give him more money before dropping them to the ground.

“The police handed us over to the Russian authorities, who made us sign documents,” one of the men said in the video. “Now they are forcing us to fight in the war against Ukraine.”

Azad Yousuf Kumar, 31, from Kashmir, took up a job as a domestic helper in Dubai in December.

But his family said he was instead taken to a training camp in Russia, where he was shot in the leg during an exercise — and then sent to Ukraine to fight.

“He wanted to go abroad because there is hardly any work here and his wife had just had a baby,” Kumar’s brother Sajad told The Guardian. “But he called us sad and said he had been sent from Dubai to Russia and had to join the army. He has been placed in a dangerous war zone and has to see wounded people every day, many with lost limbs and torn bodies.”

A viral video shows seven Indian men in fatigues claiming to have been tricked into fighting for Russia in Ukraine. NDTV

Last week, India’s foreign ministry said it was working to secure the release of about 20 of its citizens “detained” in the Russian military.

“We are doing our best to achieve early discharge. We are in regular contact with the Russian authorities, both here in Delhi and in Moscow,” Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said.

Indian nationals are not the only foreigners believed to be taking part – willingly or against their will – in the Russian war.

It is reported that 15,000 Nepalese men have joined the Kremlin army. The majority of recruits come from poor villages where employment opportunities are scarce.

In many cases, the desperate men were lured by agents with false promises of high-paying jobs without a fight.

When they reached their destination, they were persuaded to sign contracts written in Russian and had their passports taken away. Only then did they learn that they had unknowingly agreed to serve in President Vladimir Putin’s army for a year – otherwise they risked jail time.

Between a dozen and 19 Nepalis are believed to have been killed in fighting in Ukraine since the conflict began in February 2022.

Foreigners from impoverished villages in India and Nepal are sent to war zones with little training. AP

Nandaram Pun, from Rolpa, Nepal, told The Guardian that he had been offered to move to Germany for a job, with Russia just a stopover on his journey.

But as soon as he arrived in Moscow, Pun said he was taken to a military training camp and learned to use a weapon for the first time in his life. It wasn’t long before he was sent to Bakhmut – a city in eastern Ukraine that has become synonymous with bloody fighting, earning it the nickname ‘meat grinder’.

Pun said he was helping transport weapons one day when a Ukrainian drone attacked his unit, leaving him covered in shrapnel.

“I don’t want to be cured because if they think I’m better, they will send me back to war,” Pun said. “I don’t even have my passport. Please, I don’t want to die.”

Ramchandra Khadka, 37, from Kathmandu, is among the lucky ones. He had signed up to fight against Ukraine and survived, despite being injured and witnessing gruesome scenes in Bakhmut.

After recently returning to his home country, Khadka told CNN he regretted his decision to become involved in the conflict.

“I didn’t join the Russian army for fun. I had no job opportunities in Nepal. But in retrospect, it wasn’t the right decision,” Khadka said. “We didn’t know we would be sent to the front lines so quickly and how terrible the situation would be.”

An Indian man who works as a translator for the Russian Defense Ministry at a recruitment facility that processes foreigners said many newcomers from India and Nepal have no idea they are destined for the front lines.

“The officers convince them that no harm will come to them. Considering that these people come from poor backgrounds and spend a lot of money to reach Russia, they sign the contracts,” he said. “After that they can’t go back.”

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