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India busts human trafficking ring sending Indians to fight against Ukraine

Authorities in India uncovered a trafficking network deceiving citizens with lucrative job offers, only to dispatch them to Russia’s war against Ukraine as mercenaries. Indian media reported two confirmed Indian fatalities among those recruited.
A relative shows a photo of Indian national Mohammed Asfan, hired by Russia for its war in Ukraine. Photo: AFP
India busts human trafficking ring sending Indians to fight against Ukraine

On 7 March, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) exposed a widespread human trafficking network that deceived Indian nationals with promises of lucrative job opportunities abroad, only to allegedly dispatch them to Russia and then to the war zone in Ukraine, ANI News reports.

Desperate for more manpower after losing soldiers in Ukraine, Russia deceives foreign civilians, including Indians, into combat roles by promising well-paid non-combat positions. This recruitment drive extends globally, targeting economically challenged nations like Nepal and Central Asian countries, as part of Russia’s broader effort to bolster its forces. India, a longstanding ally of Russia, has refrained from explicitly condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The CBI has reportedly filed a case against various agents and visa consultancy firms operating across multiple states in India. Reportedly, the central agency conducted simultaneous raids at approximately 13 locations in Delhi, Mumbai, and four other Indian cities.

Russia recruits Indians to fight against Ukraine

The CBI revealed that the firms involved in the trafficking operated as an organized network, enticing Indian nationals through social media channels like YouTube and through local contacts or agents, with promises of highly paid jobs in Russia.

The trafficked Indian nationals were coerced into combat roles and stationed at front-line positions in the Russia-Ukraine war zone, putting their lives at risk and resulting in confirmed injuries for some individuals.

A human trafficking case was registered on 6 March against firms and agents trafficking Indians to Russia for alleged jobs, with over Rs 5 million (about $60,500) seized and ongoing investigations leading to the detention of suspects and identification of 35 victims, as authorities warn the public against falling for false job promises, according to ANI News.

Southern Indian man duped into Russian military dies in Ukraine

This development follows the death of Mohammed Afsan, a 30-year-old man from southern India’s Hyderabad in the war zone. He was an Indian national deceived into joining Russia’s war against Ukraine, India Times wrote.

The Indian Embassy in Moscow confirmed the death of Mohammed Asfan. The embassy is coordinating with his family and Russian authorities for the repatriation of his remains but did not disclose the cause of death or his activities in Russia. Asfan was one of a group of over 20 Indians lured to Russia with false job promises, as per Asfan’s family, PTCNews reports.

Afsan is the second confirmed Indian fatality in the Russo-Ukrainian war, following the death of Hamil Mangukiya from Surat approximately a week earlier, according to India Times.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issued a warning to Indian citizens about the risks of being recruited for support roles in the Russian army. The Punjab government has urged the MEA to assist Indian youth forcibly inducted into the Russian military, emphasizing the need for their safe return.

MEA is working to repatriate at least 20 Indian nationals trapped in Russia, linked to Dubai-based agent Faisal Khan, who allegedly lured them with promises of high-paying jobs but coerced them into participating in the war, PTCNews says. Some of these men, with basic weapons training, were stationed in Russian-occupied Ukrainian cities like Donetsk and Mariupol, and there are conflicting reports about their involvement with the Russian Army or the Wagner Group.

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