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Russia Promises to Release Indians Fighting in Ukraine

Russia has pledged to discharge Indian nationals “misled” into joining its army to fight in Ukraine.

During his visit to Moscow, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi strongly emphasized the need for the “early discharge” of Indian nationals to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra reported that the Russian side committed to releasing all Indian nationals from the Russian army’s service.

Read more: Modi Arrives In Russia, First Visit Since Ukraine Conflict Began

Moscow has not commented on the agreement. However, New Delhi has been pressing for the release of its nationals for months, identifying it as a “top priority.” The Indian Ministry of External Affairs has maintained continuous contact with Russian authorities to ensure their release.

Estimates suggest Russia has been deploying thousands of foreign fighters to Ukraine since the full-scale invasion began in February 2022. Many of these recruits are young men from South Asia, drawn by the promise of steady employment and higher salaries. In Nepal, opposition lawmaker and former foreign minister Bimala Rai Paudyal reported that between 14,000 and 15,000 Nepalis were fighting on the front lines, based on testimonies from returnees.

Russia announced a lucrative package last year to attract foreign fighters, including a monthly salary of at least $2,000 and a fast track to Russian citizenship. The Kremlin has not disclosed the number of recruits under this plan.

In early March, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) uncovered human trafficking networks deceiving men into joining the Russian military, identifying 35 such cases. The trafficked individuals were trained in combat and deployed to the Russia-Ukraine war zone against their wishes, the CBI stated.

Kwatra said the exact number of Indians recruited is uncertain but estimated between 35 and 50. Both sides will now work to expedite their return.

India has no law against its citizens serving in foreign militaries. One Hyderabad family recounted their ordeal of losing a brother, Asfan Mohammed, who was deceived by employment agencies and sent to fight in Ukraine, where he was killed in combat.

In Nepal, lawmakers have demanded figures on nationals fighting in Ukraine. Returned Nepali fighters criticized Russia for using them as cannon fodder, receiving minimal training before being sent into heavy combat zones like Bakhmut. Many regretted their decision, citing the dire conditions and quick deployment to the front lines.