Russia Promises Early Release of Indian Citizens in Its Army, Says India’s Foreign Ministry

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia July 9, 2024. Sputnik/Sergey Bobylev/Kremlin via REUTERS

Russia has pledged to release all Indian citizens serving in its military, according to India’s foreign ministry. This announcement followed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Moscow, where he discussed the matter with President Vladimir Putin.

India has been advocating for the release of its nationals, who claim they were deceived with promises of non-combat roles but were subsequently forced into active combat in Ukraine. At least four Indians have died in the conflict.

During a press briefing on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra stated that Mr. Modi had “strongly raised the issue of early discharge” of Indians who had been “misled into the service of the Russian army.” He added that the Russian government had assured the early release of all Indian nationals from their military service.

Mr. Kwatra noted that approximately 35-50 Indians are currently in the Russian forces, with 10 already returned to India. Efforts are now underway to repatriate the remaining individuals.

Many of the Indians stranded in Russia reported being misled by agents who promised financial rewards and Russian citizenship. These men, mostly from impoverished backgrounds, were often offered roles as “helpers” in the Russian army.

Families of Indian men serving in the Russian military have appealed to the Indian government for help in bringing their loved ones home. India’s foreign ministry labeled this a “matter of deep concern” and stated it was “pressing very hard with the Russian authorities” to secure their return.

Earlier this year, the ministry advised all Indian nationals to “exercise due caution and stay away from this conflict.” In March, Indian authorities dismantled a network of agents who had been sending people to fight for Russia under the guise of providing them with jobs.

During his two-day visit to Russia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the issue with President Vladimir Putin. This visit marked Mr. Modi’s first trip to Russia since 2019.

Following their talks, a joint release from India and Russia outlined nine key areas for closer cooperation, including nuclear energy and medicine. Additionally, the leaders announced a goal to increase bilateral trade by more than 50%, aiming to reach $100 billion (about £78 billion) by 2030.

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