Four arrested for duping young Indian men into fighting for Russia in Ukraine

A man walks past India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) headquarters building in New Delhi

By Sakshi Dayal

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -Indian police said four people linked to a network of human traffickers have been arrested on suspicion of luring young men to Russia with the promise of lucrative jobs or university places only to force them to fight in the war in Ukraine.

About 35 Indian men were duped in this manner, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said in March.

The four Indian nationals arrested were a translator, a person facilitating visa processing and the booking of airline tickets as well as two "main recruiters" for the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the CBI said late on Tuesday.

The investigation "is continuing against other accused persons who are part of this international network of human traffickers," the CBI said.

The families of two Indian men who were killed in the war have told Reuters they had gone to Russia expecting to work as "helpers" in the army.

India's foreign ministry says each case has been "strongly taken up" with Russia. Moscow has not responded to repeated requests from Reuters for comment.

Other South Asian countries have also warned their citizens against such trafficking networks after multiple cases emerged of people being similarly duped into fighting in the Russian army.

Sri Lanka said on Wednesday that "a number" of its retired war veterans were lured to the Russia-Ukraine war front with the promise of a "handsome salary", citizenship, and other benefits for serving in the army, none of which were granted.

"A significant number of war veterans have died and sustained injuries on the battlefield," Sri Lanka's Defence Ministry said, adding that the law would be "strictly enforced" in the matter.

A retired major and an employment agent have been arrested in this connection.

Nepal, which paused issuing work permits for Russia and Ukraine in January, has said several young unemployed Nepalis had been illegally recruited into the Russian army by agents who charged them hefty sums for visas.

At least 200 Nepalis are estimated to be serving in the Russian army and about 100 are missing, officials have said.

India has refused to condemn Russia over the war, calling instead for dialogue and diplomacy to end the conflict. The two countries have enjoyed a close relationship for decades, trading in items from fighter jets to tea.

India has also increased its purchase of cheap Russian oil since the war, with Moscow emerging as its top oil supplier in the last financial year for the second year in a row.

(Reporting by Sakshi Dayal, Additional Reporting by Uditha Jayasinghe; Editing by YP Rajesh, Edwina Gibbs and Gareth Jones)