Six Nepalis serving in Russian army killed in warNepali diplomats in Moscow say every day they send back at least one Nepali who went there to join the army.
At least six Nepali nationals serving in the Russian army have been killed while fighting Ukrainian forces, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday.
It has been almost 22 months since Russia launched an invasion of neighbouring Ukraine following years of conflict between the two countries.
The government doesn’t permit Nepali nationals to serve in foreign armies besides in India and the United Kingdom. But that hasn’t stopped Nepali youths from enrolling individually in the militaries of several other countries.
Those killed while serving in the Russian army are Sandip Thapaliya from Gorkha, Rupak Karki from Kapilvastu, Dewan Rai from Kaski, Pitam Karki from Syangja, Raj Kumar Rokka from Dolakha and Gangaraj Moktan from Ilam.
During an interaction with some editors on Monday, Prime Minister Dahal said that some more Nepalis are still serving in the Russian army. The prime minister also stated that the government has information that some Nepali nationals are serving in the Ukrainian Army also. But the government does not have data on how many Nepali citizens are currently serving in Russian and Ukrainian armies since the war started on February 24, 2022.
It is estimated that as many as 150-200 Nepali nationals have been serving in the Russian army as mercenaries, said Milan Raj Tuladhar, Nepali ambassador to Russia. “We are sending those who come to our contact back to Nepal, telling them about the high risks associated with joining the Russian army,” Tuladhar said.
The ambassador added that Nepali nationals were being lured with promises of big money and were mostly smuggled into Russia, with each individual paying up to Rs1 million to ‘agents’. “We have been sending back at least one Nepali national a day. They were all brought to Russia to serve in the army,” he said. “If the individual does not possess a Nepali passport, we issue a travel document and send him back to Nepal.”
On August 1, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement and urged Nepali citizens not to join foreign armies in war-torn countries.
“The attention of the ministry has been drawn to the news in social networking sites that Nepali citizens have joined foreign armies,” said the statement. “The policy of the Nepal government does not allow Nepali citizens to join foreign armies except for the fact that Nepali citizens are being recruited in the national armies of some friendly countries as per the traditional agreement reached between Nepal and those countries.”
The foreign ministry reiterated its statement issued on August 1 and asked Nepali nationals not to join any foreign army except those approved by the government.
According to a foreign ministry official, the Russians have already buried the bodies of Rupak Karki and Thapaliya, both of whom were killed around mid-July this year.
“The Russians have buried the bodies of Karki and Thapaliya with state honours,” the official said, adding, “now we are communicating with their families through the Consular Department and asking them whether they want the bodies of Karki and Thapaliya, even if the bodies have to be unearthed. Also, the government of Nepal has already requested Russia to repatriate all the dead bodies at the earliest and provide compensation to the bereaved families.”
With the help of human traffickers, many Nepalis have reached Russia on student and tourist visas and joined its army.
Earlier in May, Russia paved the way for recruiting foreign nationals in its army following a decree by President Vladimir Putin. According to an internal report Nepali Embassy in Moscow sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there has been a big surge of Nepali population in Russia and many among them have joined the armed forces following the presidential decree.
Even Nepali nationals who are living in Russia are involved in trafficking of fellow Nepalis, prompting the Nepali Embassy in Moscow to request the Russian government to discourage nonessential visits of Nepali nationals, the foreign ministry official added.
While the bodies of Karki and Thapaliya have already been buried, those of four other Nepali nationals are in a mortuary. Following Kathmandu’s request, the Nepali Embassy in Moscow has asked the Russian side to provide the photos of those bodies for examination to determine whether they are in a condition to be repatriated, according to the official.
Besides Karki and Thapaliya, the four other Nepalis were killed recently. They had reportedly reached Russia around August.
“We have urged the Russian government to discourage entry and recruitment of Nepali nationals and also asked the Nepal government to take stringent measures to curb smuggling of Nepali citizens to Russia,” said Tuladhar.
The government has also asked the Russian government to repatriate Nepalis currently serving in Russian forces as soon as possible, according to the statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Meanwhile, the ministry stated that diplomatic efforts are on to rescue and repatriate Bibek Khatri, who was fighting for Russia and has been captured by the Ukrainian army.
The ministry has also urged the public not to make non-essential travel to Russia, except in the case of individuals with government-related tasks, recipients of Russian government scholarships, and those engaged in business or work in Russia.
If there is a need to travel to Russia, the ministry has urged individuals to obtain a no objection certificate (NOC) from its Tripureshwar-based Consular Department.