Kin rejoice as Russian army agrees to discharge Indians - Hindustan Times
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Kin rejoice as Russian army agrees to discharge Indians

By, , Amritsar/karnal
Jul 10, 2024 09:00 AM IST

At least seven Indian nationals from the region are reported to be stuck in the Russia-Ukraine conflict after being forcefully recruited to serve as support staff, such as cooks and helpers.

Families in Punjab and Haryana hailed the reports that Russia has agreed to discharge all Indian nationals working in its army following discussions between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

A videograb showing the Indian youths in Russian army uniforms (Sourced)
A videograb showing the Indian youths in Russian army uniforms (Sourced)

At least seven Indian nationals from the region are reported to be stuck in the Russia-Ukraine conflict after being forcefully recruited to serve as support staff, such as cooks and helpers.

Both India and Russia have never given official figures for the total number of Indians recruited by the Russian Army. Foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra in a media briefing after the annual summit between Modi and Putin said the Indian side anticipated the number to be “roughly between 35 to 50”. Out of these, 10 Indians were brought back to India in “partnership with the Russian system”, he said.

Some reports, however, have put the number at more than 100. The Indian nationals, mostly lured to Russia by recruitment agents with promises of jobs in other sectors, were recruited into the military as support staff, including cooks and helpers, people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.

Indian authorities have been facing difficulties in establishing contact with its nationals who are believed to be serving on the frontlines because of the frequent movement of military units and the lack of proper communications, the people quoted above said.

In the month of March, seven Indian nationals hailing from Punjab and Haryana released two videos, in which they sought the Union government’s help to return to India. They had alleged they were forced by the police to join the Russian army or face 10-year imprisonment. In a 105-second video, circulated on X (formerly known as Twitter), the seven youths were seen in uniform.

Among them is Gagandeep Singh, 23, from Beriwal Kiran village near Kalanaur town of Gurdaspur district. Gagandeep said he along with others had been sent to the war zone by the Russian army.

“We have just listened to the statement of PM Modi on TV. We are happy with the development that has strengthened the hopes of my son’s return to India. We have been very anxious and depressed ever since he got recruited and sent to the war zone by the Russian military,” said Balwinder Singh, father of Gagandeep.

Balwinder said they had spoken to Gagandeep, who went to Russia on a tourist visa, on Monday evening.

“When their visas expired in custody, they were forced to join the army. There was no other option for them. He has also heard about PM Modi’s visit. He is being told by the Russian army personnel that he would get the good news soon keeping in view of the visit by Modi,” he added.

In Karnal, the Harsh Saroha family is seeing the development as a ray of hope.

Saroha hails from Sambhli village and was among the group of seven men who had made several SOS videos.

The family claimed that Harsh went to Russia in December last year on a visitor visa and was arrested on January 12. They were forced to join the Russian army or face 10-year imprisonment, they alleged.

His elder brother Sahil Kumar said that the family is in constant touch with Harsh and shared the news link with him on Tuesday.

“Our parents have spent the most tense time of their lives. Now, we all are hopeful that my brother will return safe,” he added.

Harsh spoke to HT over the phone on Tuesday and said that though he is hopeful of his safe return now but is still unsure how much time it will take.

“Now, we are all living separately at a place in Ukraine’s Tokmak that has been captured by Russia. Here we are not allowed to make any videos due to Russian security issues. Now we are not fighting at the frontline, but working as helpers in supplying food and other things. PM’s meeting is a ray of hope for us but we are here for the last five months and don’t know how much time it will take,” he added.

Gagandeep’s brother Mandeep Singh also confirmed that after the videos surfaced the Indian youths have been pulled back from the frontline.

Four Indian nationals, including Tejpal Singh of Palam Vihar locality in Amritsar, have been killed in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

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