We never wanted them: Russia on Indians in Russian Army

MEA claims PM Narendra Modi "very strongly" raised the issue of Indians in Russian army with President Vladimir Putin

PM Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin in Moscow (photo: PTI)
PM Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin in Moscow (photo: PTI)
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Russia on Wednesday said it is hoping for a quick resolution of the issue relating to India's call for return of Indians recruited into the Russian Army as support staff, and asserted their recruitment was purely a commercial matter.

In the first comment on the issue from the Russian government, Russia's charge d'affaires in Delhi Roman Babushkin said Moscow never wanted the Indians to be part of its army, and their number is 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 at a media briefing while responding to a question.

Babushkin's remarks came a day after Russia promised to ensure early release and return of Indian nationals working in the Russian military as support staff after Prime Minister Narendra Modi "very strongly" raised the issue with President Vladimir Putin.

Babushkin noted that the issue should not be politicised. "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.

The Russian diplomat said most of the Indians were recruited under a commercial framework as they wanted to "make money". The number of Indians — 50, 60 or 100 people — does not make any significance in terms of the wider conflict. "They are there purely for commercial reasons and we did not want to recruit them," he said.

Babushkin said most of the Indians recruited as support staff are working illegally as they do not have appropriate visas to work. He added that most of them came to Russia on tourist visas.

Asked if the families of those killed would be given compensation and Russian citizenship, Babushkin said it "should happen anyway as per the contractual obligations".

On Tuesday, India's foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra said in Moscow that the Russian side promised early discharge of all Indian nationals from the service of the Russian Army.

"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," he said.

It is learned that Modi raised the issue during his informal talks with Putin over dinner at the Russian leader's dacha or country home on Monday evening. Kwatra said the two sides will work on how expeditiously the Indians can be brought back home.


In March, the MEA had issued a similar claim saying several Indian nationals had been "duped" to work with the Russian Army, and India had "strongly taken up" the matter with Moscow for their early discharge.

Last month, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said the issue of Indian nationals serving with the Russian Army remains a matter of "utmost concern" and demanded action from Moscow over it.

On 11 June, India said two Indian nationals, who were recruited by the Russian Army, had recently been killed in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, which took the number of such deaths to four. Following the latest deaths, the MEA demanded a "verified stop" to further recruitment of Indian nationals by the Russian Army.

In a strongly-worded statement, it said India demanded that there be a "verified stop to any further recruitment of Indian nationals by the Russian Army and that such activities would not be in "consonance with our partnership".

In March, 30-year-old Hyderabad resident Mohammed Asfan succumbed to injuries sustained while serving with Russian troops on the frontlines with Ukraine. In February, Hemal Ashwinbhai Mangua, a 23-year-old resident of Surat in Gujarat, died in a Ukrainian air strike while serving as a "security helper" in the Donetsk region.

Modi was on a two-day high-profile visit to Russia from Monday to hold the 22nd India-Russia annual summit with Putin.

With inputs from PTI