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Russia recruits Indians to fight against Ukraine

Russia lures unemployed Indians with false promises of non-combatant roles, only to deploy them in combat against Ukraine, highlighting Russia’s global recruitment efforts.
A relative shows a photo of Indian national Mohammed Asfan, hired by Russia for its war in Ukraine. Photo: AFP
Russia recruits Indians to fight against Ukraine

Losing tens of thousands of its soldiers in Ukraine, Moscow desperately seeks more combat manpower globally, employing deceitful recruiters to dupe unmilitary foreign civilians into war participation. Among the recruited mercenaries are Indian citizens, lured through deceptive social media promotions by promises of well-paid non-combatant roles in the Russian army, only to find themselves involved in intense combat against Ukraine, according to AFP.

Russia’s recruitment drive is part of a broader global effort by Russia to bolster its forces, in addition to a significant domestic campaign. Moscow is believed to have recruited thousands of foreign fighters, including hundreds from Nepal, India’s economically challenged neighbor, Cuba, Serbia, and Central-Asian countries. India, a longstanding ally of Russia, has refrained from explicitly condemning the invasion of Ukraine.

An Indian translator at a Moscow military recruitment center told AFP that every major city in Russia has a center targeting foreign nationals. He has overseen the enlistment of 70-100 Indians, with even more Nepalis recruited. He emphasized the growing influx, noting that just last week, 10 Indians arrived at his center, requesting anonymity due to fear of reprisals.

Indian recruits told AFP they were promised non-combatant roles, yet were trained in using Kalashnikov assault rifles and other weapons before being dispatched to Ukraine. Additionally, a Russian-language defense ministry contract viewed by AFP stipulates “military service in the armed forces of the Russian Federation,” requiring “participation in hostilities” and “unlimited service to the Russian people.”

AFP interviewed five Indians who were recruited to join the Russian war effort. All of them responded to social media videos advertising positions as “army helpers” with monthly salaries of around $1,200. None of the recruits had any prior military experience.

AFP says Dubai-based recruitment agent Faisal Khan, known as Baba Vlogs on social media, promoted jobs as helpers in the Russian army, promising non-combatant roles. However, he was taken aback when recruits were issued weapons and reports of casualties emerged, leading him to stop the recruitment process.

According to AFP, the Indian Foreign Ministry acknowledged some citizens joined the Russian army for “support jobs,” without clarifying their roles. Despite its efforts, families accuse the government of inadequate action. One case involves Mohammed Imran from Hyderabad, who has been out of contact with his younger brother, Mohammed Asfan, for nearly two months. Asfan last communicated from Rostov-on-Don, Russia, revealing his deployment to the frontlines. A fellow escapee reported that Asfan had been injured by a bullet.

The geographical scope of foreign mercenaries fighting for Russia in the Russo-Ukrainian War is extensive. Fighters from the former Soviet Union, such as Armenians, Belarusians, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz, have joined the ranks of Russia’s invasion forces. Europe also contributes a significant number of mercenaries, including Serbians, Germans, and Hungarians. Russia also recruits foreign expatriates from various countries worldwide, who are offered Russian citizenship for themselves and their families. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decree allows foreign individuals who have signed contracts for a minimum of one year during Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine to apply for Russian passports for themselves and their immediate family members, including spouses, children, and parents.

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