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Seeking discharges for all, India 'strongly' takes up issue of Russia's use of Indians in war against Ukraine

Sources said that nearly 100 Indians had been recruited as the support staff of the Russian armed forces a few months back. They had been recruited through agents operating in both countries.
nirban Bhaumik
Last Updated : 26 February 2024, 14:32 IST
Last Updated : 26 February 2024, 14:32 IST

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New Delhi: India has ‘strongly’ taken up with Russia the issue of its citizens being recruited as support staff of the former Soviet Union nation’s armed forces amid allegations about some of them being deployed in the frontline to fight in Ukraine.

A man from Surat in Gujarat, Hemil Mangukiya, was killed at Donetsk in Ukraine during an aerial attack by the East European nation’s troops on the armed forces of Russia last week. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi on Monday stated that it remained committed to actively pursuing with Moscow “an early discharge” of all citizens of India from the armed forces of Russia.

Randhir Jaiswal, the spokesperson of the MEA, said that the intervention by the Embassy of India in Moscow had already resulted in the discharge of several of the country’s citizens from the armed forces of Russia.

Among the Indians engaged as support staff of the Russian Army are Azad Yusuf Kumar and Zahoor Ahmed Sheikh, who hail respectively from Pulwama and Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir. The Jammu and Kashmir Students Association (JKSA) on Monday alleged that Yusuf and Sheikh had fallen victim to a fraudulent recruitment scheme, had got trapped in Russia, and had been forcibly deployed in the Russian Army without their consent. The association took up the matter with the MEA and the Embassy of India in Moscow. Manoj Sinha, the Lieutenant Governor of J&K, also took it up with the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

“We have received a response from @IndEmbMoscow after raising the issue with the MEA. They have informed us that they have taken up the matter regarding Azad Kumar & Zahoor Ahmad with the Russian authorities,” the JKSA posted on X. “Efforts are underway to facilitate their return to India.”

Sources said that nearly 100 Indians had been recruited as the support staff of the Russian armed forces a few months back. They had been recruited through agents operating in both countries. Some of the Indians had been deployed with the units involved in Russia’s ‘special military operations’ in Ukraine. The agents also allegedly made some of the recruits deposit their travel documents with them after flying from India to Russia, according to the sources in New Delhi.

New Delhi last week officially acknowledged that it was aware of the fact a few Indian nationals had signed up for support jobs with the Russian army.

“The Indian embassy has regularly taken up this matter with the relevant Russian authorities for their early discharge,” the MEA stated on Friday. “We urge all Indian nationals to exercise due caution and stay away from this conflict.”

Many Indians realized the risks involved with working with the Russian troops in the conflict zones of Ukraine. They got in touch with New Delhi’s diplomatic mission in Moscow and most of them were provided necessary assistance to get discharged from the armed forces of Russia, added the sources.

“Each and every such case brought to the attention of the Indian embassy in Moscow has been strongly taken up with the Russian authorities and those brought to the attention of the Ministry (MEA headquarters in New Delhi) have been taken up with the Russian Embassy in New Delhi,” Jaiswal said in New Delhi on Monday, adding: “Several Indians have already been discharged as a result.”

Asaduddin Owaisi, president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM), on January 25 wrote to the external affairs minister about three Indians, Mohammed Asfan, Zahoor Ahmed, Arbab Hussain, who had gone to Russia looking for jobs. They had been misguided by the recruitment agent and were made to join the armed forces of Russia, without any military training, the Lok Sabha member from Hyderabad wrote to the external affairs minister, conveying the concerns of the families of the three. He urged Jaishankar to help bring them back to Hyderabad.

“We remain committed, as a matter of top priority, to actively pursuing with the Russian authorities all the relevant cases of Indian nationals for an early discharge from the Russian army,” the MEA spokesperson said in New Delhi on Monday.

India drew flak from the US and the rest of the West for not joining the clamour against Russia after the former Soviet Union nation launched its “special military operations” in Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

New Delhi has been maintaining a strategic balance in its ties with Moscow and Washington DC. India’s decades-old strategic partnership with and its dependence on the Soviet Union and its successor Russia for military hardware appeared to have stopped Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government from speaking up against Moscow. India has also been circumventing sanctions imposed by the US and the rest of the West on Russia and continued bilateral trade. It has also increased oil and coal imports from Russia.

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Published 26 February 2024, 14:32 IST

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