NEW DELHI: India said on Thursday it was working to secure discharges for around 20 of its citizens “stuck” in the Russian army, after reports that several were sent to fight in Ukraine.

Two years after Russia’s invasion began, tens of thousands of its soldiers have been killed in Ukraine and Moscow is on a global quest for more combatants. Several Indian recruits said this month they were lured into joining up by promises of high salaries and a Russian passport before being shipped to the frontlines.

“It is our understanding that 20-odd people are stuck,” foreign ministry spokesman Randhir Jaiswal told reporters in New Delhi. “We are trying our level best for early discharge. We are in regular touch with Russian authorities both here in Delhi and in Moscow.”

The ministry confirmed last week that an unspecified number of Indian nationals had signed up for “support jobs” in the Russian army. It said several had already been discharged as a result of its interventions with Russian authorities.

Neither India nor Russia has explicitly confirmed whether they were deployed to fight the war in Ukraine. Jaiswal said the ministry had “told people not to venture into the war zone”.

The soldiers said they had been promised non-combatant roles but were trained to use Kalashnikov assault rifles and other weapons before being sent to Ukraine. A Russian-language defence ministry contract, signed by the men refers to “military service in the armed forces of the Russian Federation”, with a requirement to “participate in hostilities” and “serve the Russian people without limit”.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2024

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