PM Modi raises return of Indians in Russian Army, gets Putin’s assurance | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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PM Modi raises return of Indians in Russian Army, gets Putin’s assurance

Jul 09, 2024 08:54 PM IST

PM Modi took up the matter with Putin during their private meeting at the Russian leader’s country home in a Moscow suburb on Monday evening

NEW DELHI: The issue of Indians recruited into the Russian Army and sent to the frontlines of the war in Ukraine was raised “very strongly” with President Vladimir Putin by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who secured a promise that all such persons would be sent back speedily.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend a private meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence near Moscow on July 8 (via REUTERS)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend a private meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence near Moscow on July 8 (via REUTERS)

Following the death of four Indians while serving with Russian military units in the conflict zone, the families of other recruits mounted pressure on the government to facilitate their release and repatriation. The Indian side recently sought a “verified stop” to the recruitment of Indians by the Russian Army.

“Prime minister raised this issue very strongly, that we should try and get all Indian nationals back to India as early as possible,” foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra told a media briefing after the annual summit between Modi and Putin.

“There was a sense of a promise from the Russian side on that. Now, the two systems will work on it and see how exactly and expeditiously we can get them back to the country,” he said.

Both India and Russia have never given official figures for the total number of Indians recruited by the Russian Army. Kwatra 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.

When their units moved to the frontlines, they were given limited military training and made to fight, the people said. Besides the four deaths, several Indians were injured in the fighting.

Modi took up the matter with Putin during their private meeting at the Russian leader’s dacha or country home in a Moscow suburb on Monday evening, the people said. The Russian side agreed to discharge and facilitate the return of all Indians working in the Russian Army, one of the people cited above said.

The Indians are expected to be released from various Russian military units within weeks, the people added.

As pressure from the recruits and their families mounted, the issue was taken up by the Indian embassy in Moscow and the external affairs ministry with the Russian mission in New Delhi. External affairs minister S Jaishankar also raised it with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov at a meeting on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Astana last week.

Russia’s ambassador to India, Denis Alipov, told the media in Moscow that the Russian side has been “very open” in its dialogue with India on this issue and “very attentive to Indian concerns”.

“Of course, we don’t want to see the Indians dying on the battlefield...This particular problem is primarily a problem involving those agencies, mediators, some shady people who mislead the Indian nationals in the first place...,” Alipov said.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) recently busted a human trafficking network spread across several states that lured gullible men through social media channels and agents with the promise of highly paid jobs in Russia.

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