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'Forcing Myself to Believe...': Brother of Hyderabad Man Killed in Russia War

The CBI on 7 March launched raids against agents allegedly involved in 'trafficking' Indians like Asfan to Russia.

Sakshat Chandok
India
Published:
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Mohammed Asfan, 30, was among several Indians who went to Russia after contacting a YouTube channel called Baba Vlogs, which advertises openings for jobs in Moscow and other Russian cities.</p></div>
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Mohammed Asfan, 30, was among several Indians who went to Russia after contacting a YouTube channel called Baba Vlogs, which advertises openings for jobs in Moscow and other Russian cities.

(Photo: Namita Chauhan/The Quint)

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"When I first heard that he had been killed, I didn't believe it. But now that the Indian Embassy in Moscow has confirmed it, I have to force myself to believe that he's gone – majboori hai," said Mohammed Imran, the brother of Mohammed Asfan, a Telangana resident who was killed on the Russia-Ukraine border after allegedly being duped into joining the Russian Army.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had taken to X on Wednesday, 6 March, to announce that Asfan had been killed amid the Russia-Ukraine war.

"We have learnt about the tragic death of an Indian national Shri Mohammed Asfan. We are in touch with the family and Russian authorities. Mission will make efforts to send his mortal remains to India," the Embassy said in a post on X.

Mohammed Asfan. 

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

Asfan, 30, was among several Indians who went to Russia after contacting a YouTube channel called Baba Vlogs, which advertises openings for jobs in Moscow and other Russian cities.

Several videos uploaded by Baba Vlogs have been doing the rounds on social media in which the platform's owner Faisal Khan, who is based in Dubai, says that Indians who want to be employed as helpers, security personnel, drivers et al in Russia can contact him.

In one of his videos, Khan also assures prospective candidates that they will not be forced to take up arms and fight on the Russia-Ukraine border. However, several people who went to Russia via Baba Vlogs claimed that they were defrauded by the platform.

'My Brother Trusted Baba Vlogs Blindly'

Asfan's brother Imran told The Quint that the former flew from Chennai to Sharjah and from there to Moscow. When he arrived at the Moscow Airport on 12 November last year, four people from Baba Vlogs came to receive him.

"The very next day, they asked him to sign an agreement, which was written in the Russian language. When Asfan asked them what the contract was about, they said that it was related to the job he had come here to do – so he trusted them blindly and signed it. But it was actually an agreement to join the Russian Army," Imran added.

Mohammed Imran, Asfan's brother. 

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

Asfan and other Indian nationals were taken to the Russia-Ukraine border in early December. When Asfan contacted the agents of Baba Vlogs to ask why he was being taken there they assured him that nothing was wrong. However, they started ignoring his calls later.

Imran said that he was in constant touch with his brother till 31 December. After that, all contact was lost.

"I got to know on 23 January that Asfan was injured. One of the Indians who was with him – who had also come to Russia for a job – informed me about it," Imran said.

He then got in touch with the agents of Baba Vlogs to find out what was going on with his brother.

"One of the Baba Vlogs agents who was in contact with me said that he had got Asfan's contract cancelled on 16 February. He also assured me that he will connect me with my brother and get him out of the region within 8-10 days. It has been over 15 days since that conversation," Imran added.

'Indian Embassy in Moscow Informed Me of His Death'

Having given up on the agents, Imran contacted Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi for help – through whom he got to know that his brother had actually passed away.

"I was with Asaduddin Owaisi on 6 March. When he called the Indian Embassy in Moscow, he was asked to call on another number – but nobody picked up the phone. Later, when I called the emergency number of the Embassy, that's when somebody said that Asfan had been killed in Russia," Imran told The Quint.

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However, Imran was still not convinced. He asked the Embassy whether they had any proof of his death in the form of a mail, letter or a death certificate, but the authorities said that they had received a call informing them that he had died.

"Later I contacted an agent of Baba Vlogs, who told me that Asfan is alive and that he will make me speak to him in a few days. But I don't trust these agents one bit," Imran said.

Mohammed Asfan.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

Meanwhile, Imran has been trying to get his brother's body back from Russia with the help of Owaisi. He also requested the Indian government to help in this regard.

"If my brother is actually dead, I request the Indian government to have his body brought to us. I also request the government to initiate a strict investigation into all the agents of Baba Vlogs," he said.

Asfan, who was the manager of a clothing store in Hyderabad before he left for Russia, leaves behind his wife and two children, aged two years and eight months. He was the youngest among six siblings.

The news of Asfan's death comes weeks after the death of 23-year-old Hamil Mangukiya from Gujarat's Surat. Mangukiya, who like Asfan was fraudulently enlisted in the Russian Army, was killed in an airstrike by Ukraine on 21 February in Donetsk.

CBI Launches Raids Against 'Trafficking' Agents 

Meanwhile, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday, 7 March, registered a case and launched raids against several agents allegedly involved in 'trafficking' Indians to Russia.

More than 10 locations were raided on Thursday evening in a number of cities, including Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Chandigarh, and Thiruvananthapuram. The CBI has also named Baba Vlogs founder Faisal Khan in the case.

Several suspects have been detained for questioning and incriminating evidence, including Rs 50 lakh in cash and electronic devices, seized from multiple locations, The Financial Express reported.

The alleged job scam came to the limelight after the family of Hyderabad resident Mohammad Sufiyan urged the Centre in February to bring him back from Russia. According to them, Sufiyan was among 21 Indian nationals who paid Rs 3 lakh to Baba Vlogs to get them employed in the country.

Earlier this week, a video was uploaded on social media in which seven men from Punjab and Haryana, all in their early 20s, claimed that they had been deceived into fighting for Russia.

Owaisi had written to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in February highlighting the issue of Indians "fraudulently" being made to join the Russian Army.

"They have not contacted their families in the last 25 days. Their families are very much worried about them and are intending to get them back to India, as they are the only bread earners of their families."
Asaduddin Owaisi in his letter to S Jaishankar

During a press conference last month, Owaisi also named Faisal Khan and his associates Poja and Sufiyan – who operate from Mumbai.

On 29 February, MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said while addressing the press that the government is making efforts to get about 20-odd Indian nationals discharged from the Russian Army. He also said that this matter had been taken up strongly with the Russian authorities.

"We have told people not to venture into the war zone or get caught into situations which are difficult. We are in regular touch with Russian authorities both here in New Delhi and also in Moscow," Jaiswal added.

(The Quint has repeatedly reached out to Faisal Khan and his associates at Baba Vlogs, but their phones have been switched off. This article will be updated as and when they respond.)

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