Nepalis Illegally Join Russian Front Lines

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A recent CNN article depicts the heart-breaking stories of Nepalis who are joining the Russian army to combat in the conflict between the Russian and Ukraine.

According to CNN and other sources, there are as many as 15,000 Nepali men who have joined the Russian military which has a lucrative financial package for the foreign fighters. “The package included at least $2,000 salary a month and a fast-tracked process to obtain a Russian passport. Nepal’s passport is ranked one of the worst in the world for global mobility, below North Korea, according to an index created by global citizenship and residence advisory firm Henley & Partners, and the Himalayan nation is among the world’s poorest, with a per capita GDP of $1,336 for 2022, according to World Bank data.”

Quoting Nepal Government official, CNN writes that there are only about 200 Nepalese are fighting for the Russian army and 13 of them have been killed in the battle. Others including Nepalese lawmakers, believe the number is too low and not reliable.

Bimala Rai Paudyal, a prominent opposition Nepali lawmaker and former foreign minister, reportedly told the parliament recently that “between 14,000 and 15,000 Nepalis are fighting on the front lines, citing testimony from men returning from the war zone, and called on the Russian authorities to provide the figures. The Russian government must have the data of how many foreign fighters have joined the Russian army and how many Nepalis are fighting for Russia.”

Januka Sunuwar, whose husband is said to be fighting for the Russian army, told CNN that he hasn’t talked to her in the past two-and-half months. “I’m very worried. I don’t know what happened to him. He may be injured… and I wonder if they will return his phone eventually. I’m scared. I try not to think of the worst. If the worst has happened to him, it’ll be worse than going to hell for us. We don’t have a future for the rest of our lives”.

They say: ‘Where is our dad, mummy? All of our friend’s dads who went abroad for work have returned… when is our dad coming back? We want to talk to our dad just for once.’ We just want information – from our government or the Russian government. Just tell us about his condition. Please see if you can rescue him. If they want to keep him there… .at least we want to know how he is… and speak to him.

– Januka Sunuewar told CNN

CNN has profiled similar stories of many Nepalese, who are believed to be fighting for the Russian army, yet have not heard from them, akin to Januka’s husband.

A Nepali soldier in Russia, who did not want to be named for security reasons, told CNN he had trained on rocket launchers, bombs, machine guns, drones, and tanks while staying at Avangard.

The soldier described his fellow academy cadets as coming from across the global south. He cited Afghan, Indian, Congolese and Egyptian classmates, among others. Class photos from Avangard posted on social media show dozens of what appear to be South Asian soldiers with native Russian instructors.

Following their basic training at Avangard, CNN traced at least two soldiers to a nearby secondary base known as the Alabino Polygon.

At this mechanized infantry training compound, which was geolocated with the help of the Bellingcat Discord community, a handful of South Asian soldiers in full combat gear appear to be familiarizing themselves with operating alongside armored vehicles and heavy weaponry, as well as packing gear bags and organizing into larger units among Russian soldiers.

– Source: CNN

Multiple sources told CNN that though Nepalese fighting for the Russian army don’t speak Russian, but the Russians have said to conduct the training in English. “Several of the Nepalis who fought for Russia said they had received only brief training before being sent into combat.”

Nepali men who want to join the Russian army first travel to Russia on a tourist visa. Most of the people CNN spoke with said they went via the United Arab Emirates or India. After landing in Moscow, they go to a recruitment center, where a physical checkup is done, they said.

“The recruiters get very happy when Nepalis show up,” a former fighter said.

A one-year contract is signed and the men get a Russian bank account, where at least $2,000 monthly salary is deposited. Many fighters say bonuses were also given – and the longer they stay on the front lines, the more bonuses they receive. Some say they made up to $4,000 a month.

– CNN

Because of the lack of employment in Nepal and the fact that more than 15% of the population lives below the poverty line. This economic hardship has prompted numerous young Nepalis to flee to foreign nations in search of better employment prospects, including fighting for the Russia army.

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