Russia to release Indians fighting in Ukraine war after PM Modi raises matter with Putin: Sources

by IANS |

New Delhi/Moscow, July 9 (IANS) Russia has decided to release and facilitate the return of all Indians fighting for the Russian army in Ukraine, a breakthrough achieved after Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the issue with President Vladimir Putin during his Moscow visit, said sources on Tuesday.

The development came after Prime Minister Modi, who is in Moscow for a two-day visit, raised the matter at a private dinner hosted by Putin on Monday evening, sources added.

Nearly two dozen Indians are believed to have been forced into fighting the war against Ukraine after being tricked by agents into going to the country on the pretext of getting high-paying jobs.

In March, the Indian government said they had "strongly" taken up the matter with Russian authorities for their early discharge.

"Strong action has been initiated against agents and unscrupulous elements who recruited them on false pretexts and promises," they said.

According to reports, four Indians have been killed in the war, while 10 have returned to the country. About 35–40 Indians are still believed to be stuck in Russia.

The plight of Indians fighting for Russia in the Ukraine war is a key concern for New Delhi.

In recent months, reports have surfaced about Indians who have fallen prey to job fraud and were tricked and forced by scammers to fight for the Russian army, which allows recruits from other countries. One such group had even posted a video on social media narrating their ordeal, asking the government to intervene.

India’s Foreign Ministry has earlier said that it is pressing hard to bring back the recruits tricked by agents.

India's Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar has said the issue is a "very deep concern" for India, and has been engaging with Russia for the past few months to make headway.

Two Indians, Ashvinbhai Mangukiya and Mohammad Asfan (both from Gujarat), were reported killed in the Ukraine war earlier this year. Two others were reported killed in June.

India has maintained that the recruitment of Indian nationals into the Russian army in a conflict situation is not in consonance with the India-Russia diplomatic partnership, and has asked for the early release and return of all such Indian nationals.

India has also demanded a halt to such recruitments in the future. In such a backdrop, the breakthrough during PM Modi's visit would be a major relief for the families of the recruits still stuck in Russia.

Prime Minister Modi arrived in Moscow on Monday evening, which marks his first visit to the country since it launched a war against Ukraine.

Russia's First Deputy PM Denis Manturov received PM Modi at the airport.

The Prime Minister will hold bilateral talks with Putin on Tuesday and also attend the 22nd India-Russia summit in Moscow.

Prime Minister Modi has been treading a fine line between maintaining a longstanding relationship with Moscow and courting closer Western security ties. The visit is also PM Modi's first since he returned to power for a third term.

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