India arrests four for duping young men into fighting for Russia in Ukraine

The arrests come two months after the investigators conducted raids across 13 locations in India and detained several people for questioning.

Police officials stand outside the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) headquarters in New Delhi [File: Altaf Hussain/Reuters]Published On 8 May 20248 May 2024

A federal investigation agency of India says four people linked to a network of human traffickers have been arrested on the charge of luring young men to Russia with the promise of lucrative jobs or university admissions only to force them to fight in the war in Ukraine.

The four Indian nationals arrested were a translator, a person facilitating visa processing and the booking of airline tickets as well as two “main recruiters” for the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said late on Tuesday.

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About 35 Indian men were duped in this manner, the agency had said in March.

The investigation “is continuing against other accused persons who are part of this international network of human traffickers”, the CBI said announcing the arrests, which come two months after raids across 13 locations in India as investigators detained several people for questioning.

The families of two Indian men who were killed in the war say they had gone to Russia expecting to work as “helpers” in the army.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) says each case has been “strongly taken up” with Russia. The MEA had earlier said it was also working to secure discharges for about 20 Indian nationals in the Russian army.

Several Indian recruits told Al Jazeera they were lured into joining up by promises of high salaries and Russian passports before being shipped to the front lines.

The soldiers said they had been promised non-combatant roles but were trained to use assault rifles and other weapons before being sent to Ukraine.

Unemployment remains high in India despite rapid economic growth and huge numbers seek work abroad each year, including thousands who had sought employment in Israel after labour shortages after it started a war on Gaza last October.

Russia’s army held off a much-hyped Ukrainian counteroffensive last year, and it has since made gains on the front lines as Kyiv struggles with ammunition and manpower shortages.

India has refused to condemn Russia over the war, calling instead for dialogue and diplomacy to end the conflict. The two countries have enjoyed a close relationship for decades, trading in items from fighter jets to tea.

India has also increased its purchase of cheap Russian oil since the war, with Moscow emerging as its top oil supplier in the last financial year for the second year in a row.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies