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They were promised jobs in Russia. They ended up fighting in Ukraine.

WorldThey were promised jobs in Russia. They ended up fighting in Ukraine.

India’s Central Bureau of Investigation said last month that it was aware of at least 35 Indian nationals who had been trained for combat and sent to fight in Ukraine against their will after being recruited for jobs in Russia through agents or social media. Some of them have been “grievously injured,” the agency said.

The agency said it had arrested 35 people on suspicion of being involved in human trafficking, and that it had seized about 50 million rupees ($600,000) in cash as well as incriminating documents and electronic records in searches around the country. 

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said officials were doing their best to get the men home as soon as possible.

“We have also told people not to venture in the war zone or get caught into situations which are difficult,” ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said, adding that India was in regular touch with Russian authorities in New Delhi and Moscow and was deeply committed to the “welfare of all Indians.”

India has ties with both Russia and the West and has tried to remain neutral in the Ukraine war, calling for peace talks while refraining from condemning President Vladimir Putin’s invasion. It has also increased purchases of Russian oil that is steeply discounted amid Western sanctions.

Sajad Ahmad Kumar said his brother and others are now in Russian-occupied Ukraine after crossing the Black Sea under the command of two officers from the Russian army.

“Things have eased a bit for them,” he said. “He used to call from someone’s phone but now he has got his own connection.” 

He said Kumar and several other Indians had approached their embassy in Moscow for help getting home but that officials there “are not taking things seriously.”

The Indian Embassy in Moscow did not respond to requests for comment.

At least two Indian citizens have been killed while fighting alongside the Russian army on the Russia-Ukraine border. They were identified last month as Hemil Ashvinbhai Mangukiya and Mohammad Asfan, from the states of Gujarat and Telangana.

Mangukiya’s father, Ashvinbhai Mangukiya, said his son had been hired as a helper for the Russian army.

“He was supposed to be stationed at Moscow, but he was forced to participate in the ongoing war between the two nations,” he said. 

Mangukiya went to Russia to collect his son’s body after he was killed in the Donetsk region in February. Like others, he has filed cases with the police against Khan and others associated with Baba Vlogs.

“Baba Vlogs is running a nexus,” he said. “The government should take cognizance and arrest all individuals involved in this criminal activity.”

Abdul Rouf, whose son Abdul Nayeem left for Russia in December, said he had spoken to Khan and others at Baba Vlogs when Nayeem, 30, told him they had gotten him a similar job as an army helper in Russia when he approached them in Dubai.

“The job agent assured me that he will not be handed a gun to fight in Ukraine or anywhere else,” said Rouf, a resident of Gulbarga city in the Indian state of Karnataka. His son has since told him that he is in Ukraine, and Rouf is planning to travel to Russia to try to help him.

Mohammad Mustafa, another Karnataka resident whose son is stranded in Russian-occupied Ukraine, said he was tired of waiting for news and was going to Russia himself.

“We can go to any extent to retrieve our children,” he said. 

“Two Indian citizens have already been killed and we don’t want to lose any other person.”

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