Misled to battle: how Russia is enlisting its troops.

  Articoli (Articles)
  Angela Sartori
  08 April 2024
  4 minutes, 45 seconds

Translated by Irene Cecchi

In the last few months, many Indian and Nepalese men ended up unwittingly fighting for the Russian Federation in Ukraine. These people fell victims of internet scams that promised a job abroad. The Indians estimated to be at war are hundreds while the number of Nepaleses would reach thousands.

How the scam works

It all starts with promising job offers sponsored by some youtube channels and other social media in India and Nepal offering the possibility to work in Russia supporting the Armed Forces but ensuring that they will not be participating directly in the ongoing conflict. Other offers promise a job in Germany and Dubai with a stopover in Moscow only for airline matters. A lot of people see an opportunity to go abroad and don’t arouse suspicion. The ones behind these scams ask the applicants about 3000$ (Faisal Khan, a representative based in Dubai and operating in India asked 3600$ while in Nepal the price reached 8500$) to cover the costs of the visa and other documents. Once in Moscow, they are asked to sign a contract that is only in Russian, translated roughly at the moment overlooking the fact that they would be enlisted and sent to war right away. After the long journey and considering all the money already spent to flee their home country, the majority of these people end up signing the contract. Next, they have their passports confiscated and they are sent to training camps where they finally understand what really happened. Here, they have to learn how to use weapons, often for the first time. After only a few weeks, these "recent-soldiers" are sent to the forefront in Ukraine. Unfortunately, the contract is binding for one-year time of service, otherwise they might end up in prison for many more years. Some of them manage to escape and find a safe place, others get injured fighting and are sent to Russian hospitals. Others fall in battle.

The reasons

The main victims of this scam are young people who seize the opportunity to go abroad and help their families back home, hoping for a better salary than the one they would gain in their home country: the promised pay is between 1200$ and 3500$ per month. Both in India and Nepal unemployment is a critical issue, especially for the younger population who sees this offer as the possibility to flee their country and make the first step to reach Europe or the US. In addition, after working in Russia for a year, you can apply for a permanent residency permit and then for citizenship after 4 more years.

According to an amendment of the Citizenship Act that became effective in September 2022, for those who serve the military forces for a year the process to obtain Russian citizenship is shortened. This possibility particularly benefits the Nepalese population considering that this Country has often taken part in exterior conflicts so the people are used to fighting. In fact, many Nepaleses flanked the English troops, the Indian ones and also went to Iraq and Afghanistan. Even though some of them sign the contract consciously, many of them arrive at the front thinking they will be doing a “normal” job in Russia.

After a significant number of deaths, Indian and Nepalese people asked for an intervention of their governments on the matter.

The measured taken by the Indian and Nepalese governments

India and Nepal reacted right away. After the population showed its concern, the Nepalese government banned the work permits to Russia and Ukraine (in Nepal, in fact, it is a government duty to release the permit to emigrate) since, according to estimations, about 14.000-15.000 men are currently in war areas. In December 2023, a group of 12 members was arrested for being the responsibles of organizing these scams but the problem is far from being solved since many journeys stop in a third country but end up in Russia.

Nepalese people are accusing their government of not doing enough to repatriate those who are fighting unwittingly at the front so they asked India for help, considering the good diplomatic relations between New Delhi and Moscow: the Indian President was one of the few political figures to congratulate the Russian President for winning the elections in March 2024.

In India all the spotlights were on this case after the Central Bureau of Investigation (the Indian FBI) discovered a net of scams designed to bring citizens to Russia. Thanks to an intervention in collaboration with Russian authorities, some of the victims were set free and brought back to India; according to the Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs V. Muraleedharan, the negotiations to release everyone are still going on, even if this is still not enough for the population.

It is not the first time that Russia has been targeted for this kind of practice. About a year ago, the same mechanism was started in Cuba and many young Cubans were brought to Ukraine. It is not the first time either that Russia enlist foreign soldiers (even if not this clearly): the majority of them are from the Middle East, from Serbia and from African Countries. Due to the long-lasting war, both Moscow and Kyiv are experiencing a shortage of military personnel so resorting to foreigners is a fast way to compensate in the short-term.

Mondo Internazionale APS - Riproduzione Riservata 2024

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Angela Sartori

Angela Sartori si è laureata in Interdisciplinary Research and Studies on Eastern Europe (MIREES) presso l'Università di Bologna. Le tematiche che ha affrontato durante il suo corso di studi si sono concentrate principalmente sui fenomeni migratori e sulle problematiche legate alle minoranze etniche, nonché sulle relazioni lasciate dall'eredità sovietica in particolare in Ucraina, nella Federazione Russa e negli stati del Caucaso meridionale.


Nepal Federazione Russa guerra russia-ucraina disoccupazione