About 100 Indians were recruited as Russian Army helpers in the past year, Russian official says

‘Their consent is taken. A background check is conducted to ensure no spies are recruited,’ the official said

February 21, 2024 10:03 pm | Updated 10:13 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Indian nationals fighting the Russia-Ukraine war alongside Russia.

Indian nationals fighting the Russia-Ukraine war alongside Russia. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Over the past one year, around 100 Indians were recruited by the Russian Army at its Moscow recruitment centre, according to an official who works for the Russian Ministry of Defence.

The Indian-origin official told The Hindu on condition of anonymity that all recruits are apprised about the risks related to the job before they signed the contract to join as “army security helpers.”

He said no money was charged by the Russian Army before their recruitment. The actual number of Indians who have been hired could be higher the official shared the statistics for only the Moscow centre, and there are other recruitment centres in Russia.

The contract is valid for a minimum of a year and mandates no leave or exit before six months of service. The workers were offered ₹1.95 lakh salary per month and ₹50,000 as additional benefits.

Also Read | ‘PUBG, but in real life’: family worried over fate of Indian man stranded near Russia-Ukraine frontlines

“The workers undergo a psychometric test and are explained the risks before they are sent for training. Since they are hired as helpers, it all depends on the command to which they will be sent. It could either be to the battlefield or they may be asked to work as porters. Their consent is taken. A background check is conducted to ensure no spies are recruited,” the official said.

The Hindu reported first on Tuesday that at least three Indians who were hired as security helpers by Russia were forced to fight alongside that country’s forces on the Russia-Ukraine border in January. One of the men, a resident of Uttar Pradesh, said that they were conned by an agent, who told them they would not be sent to the war zone. 

The workers said their passports and documents had been snatched and they were not being allowed to return. They said desperate pleas for help with the Indian Embassy in Moscow had gone unheeded.

On Wednesday, more Indians came forward to seek the government’s intervention.

Two residents each from Jammu and Kashmir, and Karnataka, dressed in combat uniforms, shared a video message with The Hindu from Russia.

“I received bullet injury in my leg during training. They have kept us in a house and plan to send us to the war zone. I have mailed and called the Indian Embassy several times but they are not responding. Please help us,” the J&K resident said.

The issue was first flagged by the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) MP Asaduddin Owaisi, who wrote to External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on January 25, seeking the workers’ return.

Also Read | Owaisi urges Union government to rescue Indian youth stranded near Russia-Ukraine frontline

“Sir @DrSJaishankar kindly use your good offices to bring these men back home. Their lives are at risk & their families are justifiably worried,” Mr. Owaisi posted on X on Wednesday.

The Russian official said that people from several countries, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, were being hired by the Russian Army over the past one-and-a-half years.

Russia and Ukraine have been at war since February 24, 2022. While a few Indians volunteered to join the International Legion created to fight Russian forces in Ukraine in 2022, the presence of Indians on the Russian side in a combat role has been reported the first time.

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