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'We're Ill, Being Made to do Heavy Work': Indians Stuck in Russia-Ukraine War

Seven Indian men stuck in Russia-Ukraine war zone plead for help as they face illness and lack of medical treatment.

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"Yr atha tbiyat bohat khrab ho rhi A... Bohat buri halat na medicine milidi... Atha (We are getting very ill here. We are in a very bad condition, we don't get any medicines here)."
"Ho sakda Sanu atho jaldi kudwa lao (If you can, please get us out of here soon)"

23-year-old Gagandeep is afraid. Speaking to The Quint over WhatsApp, he pleads that the authorities need to rescue him and the other Indians stuck in a war that is not theirs to fight.

Gagandeep and six other Indian men are being "forced" to fight the Russia-Ukraine war, miles away from their homes, after a travel agent allegedly "duped" them into joining the Russian Army as 'helpers'.

The seven men – five from Punjab and two from Haryana – had on 3 and 4 March, released two videos, now viral on social media, pleading to the Indian government to bring them back home.

The Quint had on 7 March, reported extensively on how the Russian Army allegedly "forced" them to sign a contract with it, after the youths were "duped" by a travel agent and left "stranded" in Belarus on pretext of "tourism".

Now, the men disclosed they are not receiving proper medical treatment, being made to do "heavy work" and are anxious to come back to India.

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'Kept in Bunkers, Having Fever, Vomiting'

Gagandeep is a resident of Dehriwal Kiran village in Punjab's Gurdaspur.

Speaking to The Quint over WhatsApp around 6.30pm IST on 9 March, Gagandeep disclosed that he was still stuck in Ukraine.

He and the six other men were brought back from the frontline in the Donetsk region, as reported by The Quint earlier, but they are still in an army training camp somewhere in Ukraine.

On being asked about his health, Gagandeep said he was in a very bad condition and was not getting any medicine from the authorities.

"Yr fever vomit vgara (We're having fever and vomiting)," he disclosed, adding that they were being kept in bunkers at some place which seemed "khali jehi jugha (an empty place)".

During the conversation, he asked for information about what the Indian authorities are saying about their release.

"Sir imbesay vgara ja kise to kuj pta luga Sanu kdo Tal atho kudan ga (Sir, did you get to know anything from the Embassy or anyone else, by when will they rescue us from here?)," an anxious Gagandeep asked The Quint.

Asked if anyone from the Indian embassy tried to make contact with them, he said: "We called up the Indian Embassy (in Russia). They told us that they have sent a mail regarding our case... They told us 'When a reply comes, we will let you know'..."

"But our condition is getting very bad here. If you can, please get us out at the earliest," Gagandeep added.

Their 'superiors' in the Russian Army have also not told them anything on whether they're being released.

"They don't tell us anything. Besides, we can't understand their language (Russian)," he shared.

  • Screengrab of The Quint's chat with Gagandeep Singh over WhatsApp, on 9 March 2024

    (Photo: The Quint)

'Unwell, Made to do Heavy Work'

On 7 and 8 March, The Quint also spoke to 20-year-old Harsh Kumar, a Karnal resident stuck at the Russia-Ukraine war-front along with Gagandeep.

It was Harsh who had released the now-viral second video on social media on 4 March.

He had earlier told The Quint, also over WhatsApp, that he wanted to "come back home at the soonest".

"Feelings tho yhi ha bhai ke jaldi sa jaldi apni country wapis aa jaya (All I feel is that I want to come back to my country soon)," he had said.

He has now disclosed that he is also very ill, and is being "made to do heavy work" by the Russian Army officials.

He, too, has confirmed that they're being kept at some army training camp near the Russia-Ukraine border.

Asked what kind of work he is being made to do at the camp, he said: "Sir pehla training de ja rhi the aab bhot bhari bharkam kam karya ja rha ha (First they were training us, now they're making us do very heavy work)."

It could further not be ascertained as to what kind of "heavy work" they were being made to do.

'Trying To Rescue Them': MEA

Meanwhile, the Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has maintained that it is trying its best to rescue those Indian nationals "stranded in Russia".

Briefing the press on 8 March, MEA Spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal had also cautioned Indians here and abroad "not to fall for such Russian Army job scams."

This comes in the aftermath of death of two Indian nationals – Hyderabad's Mohammed Asfan and Gujarat's Hemil Mangukiya – in the Russia-Ukraine war.

The MEA had earlier stated that at least "20-odd Indians" stranded in Russia had contacted the Indian government, seeking rescue.

The Quint has also reached out to the Russian Embassy in India for comment. This report will be updated if we receive a response.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Punjab   India   Russia 

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