Second Indian dies fighting for Russian Army; his family says he was duped | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Second Indian dies fighting for Russian Army; his family says he was duped

Mar 06, 2024 10:17 PM IST

Several agents have been accused of duping young men from Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal and sending them to Russia

NEW DELHI: A second Indian national has died while serving with the Russian Army on the frontlines of the conflict with Ukraine, increasing pressure on Indian authorities to identify and repatriate all citizens reportedly forced to fight alongside Russian troops after taking up support jobs.

Mohd Asfan’s elder brother Mohammad Imran said he went to Russia on a flight from Chennai via Sharjah in November 2023.
Mohd Asfan’s elder brother Mohammad Imran said he went to Russia on a flight from Chennai via Sharjah in November 2023.

The Indian embassy in Moscow confirmed the death of Indian national Mohammed Asfan in a post on X. The 30-year-old from Hyderabad travelled to Russia late last year and reports have said he was seriously injured along with two other Indians in hostilities in a conflict zone last month. According to Asfan’s family, he is survived by his wife and two children.

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“We have learnt about the tragic death of an Indian national Shri Mohammed Asfan. We are in touch with the family and Russian authorities. Mission will make efforts to send his mortal remains to India,” the Indian embassy posted on X.

The embassy didn’t provide details about the exact circumstances of Asfan’s death or how he had gone to the conflict zone.

Earlier, 23-year-old Hemal Ashwinbhai Mangukiya, a resident of Surat in Gujarat, was killed in a Ukrainian air strike while serving as a “security helper” with the Russian Army at Donetsk, a part of Ukraine occupied by Russia. Mangukiya travelled to Russia last December.

Asfan’s elder brother Mohammad Imran said he went to Russia on a flight from Chennai via Sharjah in November 2023. “He contacted a travel agent, who ran a YouTube channel called BabaVlogs and offered him a job in Russia. He was told he had to assist the Russian Army and wouldn’t be deployed on the frontlines,” Imran said.

Imran added that Asfan signed a one-year contract on November 13, 2023. “The contract was in Russian and the agent told us that it was safe to sign the agreement,” he said.

Another brother of the victim, Mohammed Irfan, contacted Hyderabad MP and All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi after the family was unable to contact Asfan over the past week. “We got confirmation of his death today [Wednesday],” said Owaisi, who has taken up the case of several young men from Telangana serving with the Russian Army who now want to return home.

Reports also said a letter sent by a recruitment agent for facilitating Asfan’s Russian visa application said he earlier worked in a semiconductor firm in Hyderabad and had been offered a job to provide IT services in Russia. However, Asfan’s relatives said he was an employee of a clothes store till last September and had no IT skills.

People familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity that the Indian side has stepped up efforts to bring back all Indians serving with the Russian military. However, there is still no clarity on the actual number of Indians in the Russian Army, with some reports suggesting it could be about 100. “With these deaths, it can be expected that more Indian nationals will reach out to authorities for help to return to the country,” one of the people cited above said.

The external affairs ministry confirmed last month that 20 Indian nationals serving with the Russian military have so far approached the Indian mission in Moscow seeking help for their discharge. Several of them were discharged after Indian authorities took up their case in Moscow and New Delhi.

“The Russian side is now taking the matter more seriously,” a second person said, adding the issue had been complicated because some Indians were recruited from places such as Dubai.

Besides BabaVlogs, several agents have been accused of duping young men from Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal and sending them to Russia to take up support jobs in the army. The external affairs ministry has said that every case “brought to the attention of the Indian Embassy in Moscow has been strongly taken up with the Russian authorities”.

India has advised its citizens to stay away from getting caught up in the Russia-Ukraine conflict following reports that some Indians with support jobs in the Russian Army had been forced to fight alongside Russian troops.

Earlier, there were reports of up to 200 men from Nepal being recruited by the Russian military. Nepal’s foreign ministry acknowledged in December that six Nepalese nationals serving in the Russian Army were killed in the war with Ukraine.

The war triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 is now in its third year. The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has verified 30,457 civilian casualties, including 10,582 killed and 19,875 injured since the war began.

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