Russia wants quick solution to issue of Indians caught up in Ukraine war, top diplomat says

Russia's President Vladimir Putin meets with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Moscow

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Russia is committed to finding the "earliest possible solution" to the issue of Indians being duped into joining its army and fighting in the Ukraine war, a top Russian diplomat said, in Moscow's first comments on the matter.

Seeking the discharge of Indians who joined Russia's army on false premises has been a key focus of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's talks with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow this week.

An Indian official accompanying Modi said on Tuesday that Russia has promised their early discharge.

"The Russian army does not need Indians, especially those numbers which are very few ... They do not change the situation on the battleground in any way," Roman Babushkin, the Charge d'Affaires of the Russian Embassy in India, said late on Wednesday.

He told news agency ANI that while most Indians fighting in the war were there for what he called "commercial purposes", some were cheated into joining up by agents. He added that India and Russia were coordinating closely to find a solution to the problem. Reuters has a minority stake in ANI.

Asked about Russia's investigation, Babushkin said the probe should take place in Russia and India because the agents involved are located mostly in India.

India said last week about 30 to 40 Indians lured to Russia by the promise of lucrative jobs and education opportunities are now thought to be fighting in the Russian army, and at least four Indians have been killed in the conflict.

India has arrested at least four people thought to be part of a nationwide human-trafficking network behind the racket, and it says 10 Indian nationals have been brought back from Russia so far.

New Delhi and Moscow have had close ties since the days of the Soviet Union, and more recently India has been buying record amounts of discounted Russian oil after the West imposed sanctions on Russia's crude following its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

India has not condemned Russia for the conflict, instead calling for peace through dialogue and diplomacy.

During his visit, however, Modi used emotive language to deliver an implicit rebuke to Putin, telling him that the death of innocent children was painful and terrifying, a day after a lethal strike on a children's hospital in Kyiv.

Russia has said, without providing evidence, that it was a Ukrainian anti-missile system that struck the hospital.

(Reporting by Sakshi Dayal; Editing by YP Rajesh)