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20 Indians stuck in Russia, in touch with authorities for their early discharge: MEA

Media reports emerged that thousands of Indians were transported to Russia by an agent and were forced to fight alongside the Russian Army against Ukraine. A recent report claimed that a 23-year-old Indian hired as a "security helper" was killed near the Donetsk region near Russia's border.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee New Delhi Updated on: February 29, 2024 18:02 IST
MEA, Indians, Russia Ukraine war
Image Source : MEA Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal.

New Delhi: The Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday said that approximately 20 Indians are currently trapped in Russia and India is in touch with Russian authorities in New Delhi and Moscow for their early discharge. MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal also reiterated warnings to Indian nationals to not venture into war zones or get caught in difficult situations.

"We have an understanding that 20-odd people are stuck. We are trying our level best for their early discharge. We have issued two statements which you saw. We've also told people not to venture into the war zone or get caught into situations which are difficult. We are in regular touch with Russian authorities both here in New Delhi and also in Moscow," Jaiswal said during a regular press briefing.

This came as reports surfaced that Indian nationals were caught in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and were forced to sign up for support jobs with the Russian army to fight against Kyiv. Media reports also claimed hundreds of Indians were being transported to Russia by a Dubai-based agent. India had repeatedly urged citizens to exercise maximum caution and stay away from the conflict in Ukraine.

Mohammad Sufiyan, from Hyderabad, is one of the many youths who were allegedly duped by some agents and drafted into fighting for Russia in the ongoing conflict against Ukraine. Sufiyan's family has urged the central government as well as the Ministry of External Affairs to safely evacuate the youths trapped in Russia and also take strict action against the agents.

"My brother was taken by Baba Blocks Company, which has offices in Dubai, Delhi, and Mumbai. The first batch went out on November 12, 2023. A total of 21 youths were sent and Rs 3 lakh was taken from each one of them. They were made to sign an agreement in Russia on November 13," said Sufiyan's brother Imran to news agency ANI.

23-year-old Indian national reportedly killed in war

Days after the MEA admitted that Indian youths were signed up for support roles, a 23-year-old was reportedly killed in a drone attack on the battlefield in the Ukraine conflict. Hemil Ashvinbhai Mangukiya, belonged to Gujarat's Surat and was killed in Donetsk close to Russia's border on February 21.

Without mentioning the death, the Indian government on Monday refuted some media reports and dubbed them "inaccurate" which claimed Indians with the Russian army seeking help for discharge, and said that some Indians have already been discharged. Jaiswal said each case was strongly taken up with the Russian authorities.

"We remain committed, as a matter of top priority, to actively pursuing with the Russian authorities all the relevant cases of Indian nationals for an early discharge from the Russian army," according to the statement.

It was All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) MP Asaduddin Owaisi who pointed out the issue and urged the Centre to speak with the Russian government and bring back the youths. "The Narendra Modi government should hold talks with the Russian government and bring back the 12 youths trapped in the Russia-Ukraine war," AIMIM posted on X.

India on the Russia-Ukraine conflict

Speaking on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, which has entered its third year, Jaiswal said, "Our position is very well known. We have said this at various levels, at the highest levels, that India desires that there be discussion, diplomacy, there be constant engagement so that both sides can come together and find a solution for peace. So our position is maintained."

This came a few days after India questioned why the UN Security Council has been rendered "completely ineffective" in resolving the Russia-Ukraine conflict that has continued unabated for two years, as New Delhi asserted that outdated structures need reform for multilateralism to be effective. India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ruchira Kamboj reiterated Prime Minister Narendra Modi's concern that this is not an "era of war", which the PM told Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2022.

“We have consistently held the position that no solution can ever come at the cost of human lives. The escalation of hostilities and violence is in no one's interest,” she said. Underlining that New Delhi has urged from the outset that all efforts must be made for an early cessation of hostilities and an urgent return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy, she stressed that engaging in dialogue stands as the “sole path" to resolving conflicts and differences, no matter how insurmountable such a course may seem at present.

(with inputs from agencies)

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