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'He Wanted to Serve India but He Died for Russia': Wife of Man Killed in Ukraine

Slain Tejpal Singh's family said he wanted to join the Indian Army, but went to Russia after he couldn't find a job.

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Tejpal Singh had been dead for three months. For three months, his family back in Amritsar was relentlessly trying to reestablish contact with their son who had flown miles away from home to join the Russian Army as a 'helper'.

It was only on 9 June, that 30-year-old Parminder Kaur received a call from another Indian-origin recruit in the Russian Army, that her husband was killed in action at the Russia-Ukraine warfront, as early as on 12 March 2024.

Parminder had spoken to 29-year-old Tejpal on 3 March, when he told her that he's being sent to the frontline by the Russian Army. He had joined the Army on 12 January, the day after he landed in Russia.

Tejpal is reportedly one of the two latest Indian casualties of Russia's war in Ukraine.

The Ministry of External Affairs, in a press statement on 11 June, informed that two Indian nationals recruited in the Russian Army were recently killed in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. It added that the Indian authorities have "pressed" their Russian counterparts for "early repatriation of mortal remains" of the deceased.

However, the MEA statement made no reference to the identity or date of death of the two deceased.

Earlier, Surat's Hemil Mangukiya and Hyderabad's Mohammed Asfan had also died fighting the Russia-Ukraine war.

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'Wanted to Join Indian Army, Found No Jobs'

Tejpal belonged to Palam Vihar in Amritsar, Punjab, where his father Pritpal Singh runs a grocery store.

Speaking to The Quint over phone, his wife Parminder said: "Tejpal was very knowledgeable and curious about a lot of things. He was 12th pass, and was eagerly looking for a job to sustain the family, but couldn't land one."

She said while earlier the Covid pandemic and the lockdown left Tejpal jobless, his dream to join the Army was also left shattered.

"He was very keen on joining the Indian Army, but he had reached age and could no longer apply."

Parminder met Tejpal in Cyprus in 2016, and the duo tied the knot in the following year.

When we were in Cyprus, we were proud Indians and proud Punjabis. Whenever a foreigner would call India poor or unemployed, Tejpal would argue with them to defend the country's reputation. But it is a pity he died because his country couldn't provide him a job.
-Parminder Kaur, wife of slain Indian Tejpal Singh
  • Tejpal Singh is survived by his wife, parents, and two kids.

    (Photo provided by family)

'Russian Army Promising High Wages to Lure Indians'

The Quint learned that the Russian authorities had promised Tejpal a hefty sum of Rs 2.5 lakh per month, for signing a contract with the Army.

"He got to know that Russia was inviting foreigners to join their army ahead of the Ukraine war, and was providing them easy electronic visas for the same. So Tejpal also applied for the e-visa and went to Russia in January," Parminder said.

Tejpal's documents accessed by The Quint showed that his 'Common Entry e-visa' was valid till 3 February.

He boarded an Etihad Airways flight from Bangkok to Abu Dhabi, and another connecting flight to Moscow, on 11 January.

"I had sent him to Thailand in December last year, hoping that if he spent a few months away from the family, he will start missing us and drop his Russia plans. But when he was adamant on joining the Russian Army because of the good pay they were offering, I had to unwillingly book him a flight to Moscow. I was very worried for him, but he wanted to support his family," Parminder added.

Tejpal had also booked two similar flight tickets back to Delhi for 21 January — a journey he never ended up taking.

'Sent to the Frontline, Never Returned'

Tejpal reached Russia around 12 January, and signed a contract with the Army the very next day.

In February end, almost two months after his recruitment, he received his first salary of around Rs 2.5 lakh. She had Tejpal's seniors had told him he "might be sent to the frontline".

It was also the time when India was shocked by the death of Surat's Hemil Mangukiya in the Russia-Ukraine War, in February this year.

"I heard the news about Indians dying there, and also of some men returning back. I begged him to come back. But his friends in the Army told him that salaries often come in instalments. He was hopeful if he stayed back, his remaining salary might also be credited soon," Parminder said, crying.

On 3 March, when Parminder last spoke to Tejpal, he had made up his mind that following his superiors' orders, he will head towards the frontline from the Army camp.

Parminder disclosed that Tejpal was taken to Tokmak city in Ukraine's war-torn Zaporizhzhia region — miles away from the Russian border, where he died fighting Russia's war on 12 March.
Slain Tejpal Singh's family said he wanted to join the Indian Army, but went to Russia after he couldn't find a job.

Tokmak in war-torn Zaporizhzhia region is approx. 200 kms away from the Russia-Ukraine border.

(Photo: Screengrab of Google Maps)

'Waiting for Mortal Remains'

What followed was a three-month-long wait for Tejpal's family, who left no stone unturned to find their son miles away from home.

But it was only on 9 June that Parminder got to know that Tejpal had died on 12 March, from one of Tejpal's Indian colleagues in the Army.

She said during this time, she had, on multiple occasions, tried reaching out to the MEA and the Embassy officials, but to no avail.

All she hopes for now is that the MEA expedites the process of bringing back Tejpal's mortal remains, so the family could perform his last rites.

For Parminder, Tejpal is a 'shaheed' (martyr), but she finds it sad that he died fighting for another nation, and not his own.

"Had he found a job in Indian given him a job, this would have never happened," she reiterates.

Parminder says that her children — 6-year-old Armaandeep Singh, and 3-year-old Gurnazdeep Kaur — can't yet fully comprehend that their father will not be returning home.

Meanwhile, the MEA has maintained that it has asked their Russian counterparts that "Indian nationals in war zone have to be returned".

"The illegal recruitment has to stop. We have taken this seriously," Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said on 12 June.

(Here's an appeal: The Quint has been rigorously reporting the cases of several Indians "duped" into fighting the Russia-Ukraine War. You may read our reports in the 'Trapped in Russia' section of our website. To support our work, become a Member of The Quint now!)

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