‘Never wanted Indians to be part of Army’: Russia’s Charge d’Affaires

Russia expressed hope on Wednesday for a quick resolution to India’s request for the return of Indians recruited into the Russian Army as support staff. The remark came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the issue “very strongly” during his meeting with President Vladimir Putin, who promised that all such individuals would be sent back.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi embraces Russian President Vladimir Putin (ANI)

Russia stated that the recruitment was strictly a commercial matter.

In the first comments from the Russian government, the country’s Charge d’Affaires Roman Babushkin said Moscow never intended for the Indians to be part of its Army and their numbers were insignificant in the context of the conflict.

“We are on the same side with the Indian government on the issue… We hope that the issue will be resolved soon,” he said speaking to the media, as per PTI.

After four Indians died while serving with Russian military units in the conflict zone, the families of other recruits pressured the government to help release and bring them back. Recently, India asked for a “verified stop” to the recruitment of Indians by the Russian Army.

Babushkin added that the issue should not be turned into a political matter. “Let us be very clear, we have never wanted Indians to be part of the Russian Army. You would never see any announcement by Russian authorities on this,” he said as quoted by PTI.

The Russian diplomat said most of the Indians were hired to “make money” under a commercial agreement. He added that the number of Indians involved — 50, 60, or 100 people — doesn’t significantly impact the broader conflict.

Babushkin further said most of the Indians recruited as support staff are working illegally because they lack the proper work visas.

He mentioned that most of them arrived in Russia on tourist visas.

When asked about compensation and Russian citizenship for the families of those killed, Babushkin said it “should happen anyway as per the contractual obligations”.

PM Modi was on a two-day visit to Russia starting Monday for the 22nd India-Russia annual summit with Putin.

Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said in Moscow on Tuesday, “The prime minister strongly raised the issue of early discharge of Indian nationals who have been misled into the service of the Russian Army. This was taken up strongly by the prime minister and the Russian side promised early discharge of all Indian nationals.”

Last month, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) expressed “utmost concern” about Indian nationals serving with the Russian Army and demanded action from Moscow.

On June 11, India reported that two Indian nationals recruited by the Russian Army had been killed in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, bringing the total number of such deaths to four. After the deaths of the two, the MEA demanded a “verified stop” to further recruitment of Indian nationals by the Russian Army. In a strongly-worded statement, the MEA emphasised that this recruitment should cease as it is not “in consonance with our partnership”.

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