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Indians sent to the front in Ukraine by the Russian army

Hemil Ashvinbhai Mangukiya, a 23-year-old Indian national, died on February 21 following a Ukrainian missile attack in the Donetsk region.

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Indians sent to the front in Ukraine by the Russian army

Hemil Ashvinbhai Mangukiya, a 23-year-old Indian national, died on February 21 following a Ukrainian missile attack in the Donetsk region. His story was told by our colleagues at The Indian Express. He had been recruited via the internet, then enlisted as Russian “army support” in mid-December. The news of his death came as a shock to his family, who knew he was working in Russia, but had no idea he had been sent to the front.

According to Indian sources, dozens of citizens of their country have followed a path similar to that of Hemil Ashvinbhai, thus joining the front in Ukraine. A translator from India, who works at a military recruitment center in Moscow, told AFP he had overseen the enlistment of “70 to 100” Indians. But “every major city has a recruitment center where foreign nationals are processed,” he said. For its part, the Russian Ministry of Defense speaks of around a hundred cases, at most.

Hemil Ashvinbhai was from Gujarat, a region in western India with no real job prospects, so young people are now looking for work in other countries. He went to Russia. “We (his family) allowed him to go and work abroad so as not to have to face financial difficulties. He wanted to earn more money so he could save for his wedding and start his own business,” his father said.

Like the young Indian, the men who went to Russia came from poor families and were lured by the promise of a high salary. “BabaVlogs”, whose real name is Faisal Khan, is an Indian agent based in Dubai who is dedicated on his social networks to highlighting Russian army contracts. In his videos, he guarantees $3,600 to those who sign up as “support” in Russia.

The recruits were, however, assured that they would not have to take up arms. “You don’t have to fight. All you have to do is clear out destroyed buildings [and] maintain armories. “, “BabaVlogs” had said. But the Indians had to undergo weapons training and then were sent to the front in Ukraine. Hemil Ashvinbhai's father says: “We learned that after working for a few days, he was told to sign a document written in Russian, and was then taken to the war zone with a rifle. »

No prior military experience is required for these Indians who join the Russian army. A man from Kashmir wounded at the front explains that he was sent to Mariupol with a fellow Indian and nine other foreigners from Cuba and Nepal. “I had never touched a gun. It was extremely cold, and with the gun in my left hand I shot myself in the foot,” he told the BBC. Another implores: “Please get us out of this place. Otherwise, they will send us to the front. We have no experience. The [Russian] agents put us in this situation. »

Other sources from the Indian newspaper The Hindu and the BBC say that the Russian army is transparent about what it asks for in these contracts, and that they can be found online. One of them, however, adds that people who do not understand Russian have been duped by recruitment agents. The contract stipulates a commitment for a minimum of one year and does not provide for any leave or exit before six months of service.

Their passports having been confiscated, the Indian recruits are stuck in Russia. Men contacted the Indian embassy in Moscow to request repatriation but received no response, according to The Hindu. The Indian Foreign Ministry later claimed that Indians were allowed leave after it contacted Russian authorities. India, a close ally of Russia, has not condemned the invasion of Ukraine since February 24, 2022.

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