Translation app helps six Indians escape Russian war

When military officers asked them to sign an agreement in Russian, they used the app to translate the pact and realising the magnitude of the problem, initiated measures to get back to India. All hail from poor indigent and had borrowed from moneylenders to work as security personnel in Russia

Updated - April 07, 2024 12:58 am IST

Published - April 06, 2024 07:57 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

A car burns at a site of a Russian missile strike amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on April 5, 2024.

A car burns at a site of a Russian missile strike amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on April 5, 2024. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Even as two out of four Kerala youths who had been tricked into Russia by recruiting agents to fight in the war against Ukraine were injured in the war zone and managed to reach home, a story of another six youths from Kerala who escaped a similar plight with the help of Google Translator has emerged.

Speaking to The Hindu, Jaison George (name changed), a native of Thekkumbhagam in Kollam, said he and five others had reached Russia on February 19.

Service charges

They were offered security jobs by the agent from Thiruvananthapuram, who had earlier trafficked four youths from Thiruvananthapuram to Russia. “Soon after we landed in Moscow, a man took us to a hostel and to a military base on the northeast of Russia. During the journey to the base, we were told that we would man the army’s security installations and hence should undergo a three-week military training,” says Mr. George, a commerce graduate, adding that “he charged each of us his service charge, ranging from $1,350 to $1,500.”

The next day, they were told to sign a one-year agreement before joining the service. The agreement was written in Russian, and they were forced to sign it in minutes. “Seeing the haste of the proceedings, we sought time to read the documents,” he says.  

As frontline soldiers

“As we read the document with the help of Google Translator, we realised the magnitude of the trap we were in. It was clearly mentioned that we had been recruited to fight against the Ukraine army as frontline soldiers. Upon successful completion of the term, we would be offered permanent resident status in Russia and Russian passport, among other things. Without a second thought, we tore up the agreement and sought permission to return to India,” he says.

Watch | Two years of Russia-Ukraine war: Has India’s foreign policy changed at all?

They were shifted to a hostel nearby. There they reached out to a sub-agent in Thiruvananthapuram, who told them not to sign the agreement. He then arranged flight tickets for them. On February 26, they landed in India. Soon after, one tried to commit suicide as he had paid ₹6 lakh to the agents. The sub-agent gave the youth a sum of ₹2.5 lakh.

Editorial |Lives and livelihoods: On perils and the Indian emigrant

All the victims hail from poor families and had borrowed from moneylenders. Mr. George has been staying in Mumbai since his return. “I can’t go home empty-handed as my father, an auto driver, had borrowed the money from a loan shark. Here, I am trying to find a job. Otherwise, my entire family will have to commit suicide,” he says.

Rescue efforts still on

Binu Panicker, president, All Moscow Malayalees Association, who helped them get back home, says the association realised the gravity of the situation only after seeing a copy of the agreement they shared.

Mr. Pancikar had also helped repatriate the two injured youths, Prince Sebastian and David Muthappan of Thiruvananthapuram, with the help of the Indian Embassy. The efforts to bring the other two, who are still on the warfront, are under way. “We are hopeful that they will get a discharge from the Russian Army this week following a request from the Indian Embassy,” said Mr. Panicker.

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