Continue to press Russia for discharge of Indians from military jobs, says India

NEW DELHI: India said on Friday it is continuing to press Russian authorities for the early discharge of Indian nationals serving as support staff with the Russian military even as the bodies of two citizens killed on the frontlines of the Ukraine conflict are expected to be brought home by the weekend.

An emergency worker inspects the body of a killed person at the site of a Russian missile strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine March 15. (REUTERS)

“We are pressing very hard with the Russian authorities for early discharge of our people who are stuck there,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal told a regular media briefing. He reiterated that 20-odd Indians serving in the Russian military so far approached Indian authorities for help and that two Indians had been killed.

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Jaiswal didn’t respond to questions regarding the exact number of Indians currently working as support staff with the Russian military, and the number who had been discharged and had returned home. He said the figures are based only on the number of people who had contacted Indian authorities for help.

“Several of them have been discharged, some of them have also come back,” he said.

Referring to the two Indians who had been killed, Jaiswal said: “The paperwork for their mortal remains has been done. The funeral agency which we have engaged has been handed over the bodies.”

He added, “We are in touch with the families and the Russian authorities and hopefully we will have the mortal remains in India by the end of this week, Sunday or thereabouts, and then handed over to the families.”

Earlier this month, 30-year-old Hyderabad resident Mohammed Asfan succumbed to injuries sustained while serving with Russian troops on the frontlines with Ukraine. Hemal Ashwinbhai Mangukiya, a 23-year-old resident of Surat in Gujarat, died in a Ukrainian air strike last month while serving as a “security helper” at Donetsk.

Several more Indians have been injured. Indians have also posted videos on social media seeking help to get out of their jobs with the Russian Army.

In response to further questions on the subject, he said some of the Indians discharged from the military jobs wanted to remain in Russia. The Indians working as support staff are in far-off areas and there are difficulties in bringing them back, he said. All the efforts of the Indian side are focused on bringing them back speedily, he said.

Though there have been reports of people of other nationalities, including Nepalese citizens, seeking help from the Indian side to get out of support jobs in the Russian military, none of them have formally approached Indian authorities, Jaiswal said.

Jaiswal reiterated India’s consistent position that it will continue to encourage the peaceful resolution of the Russia-Ukraine conflict through dialogue and diplomacy. “We remain open to engaging in all ways and means that could help achieve this objective,” he said.

Last week, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said it had busted a human trafficking network spread across several states that lured gullible young men through social media channels and agents with the promise of highly paid jobs in Russia.

The trafficked Indians “were trained in combat roles” and deployed against their wishes at frontline bases in the Russia-Ukraine war zone, putting their lives in grave danger, the CBI said.

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