Death toll hits 13: Another Nepali falls in Russian Army amidst ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict

Published On: January 23, 2024 08:00 AM NPT By: Sara Pahari

KATHMANDU, Jan 23: One more Nepali national working in the Russian Army has died. The deceased has been identified as Sundar Moktan, 32, of Naukunda Rural Municipality-5 in Rasuwa. 

According to Ward Chairman Nurbu Sangwo Ghale, Moktan’s family received the news of his death recently. According to the friends of the deceased, Moktan was killed on December 28 in Ukraine.

Moktan’s friends, who also joined the Russian army, sent the news of his death to the family. Further details surrounding Moktan’s death are still awaited. 

It is learnt that Moktan is a former Nepali Army (NA) soldier. He is survived by his wife, his mother, a son and a daughter.

Moktan’s death takes the death toll to 13. Earlier, Sajan Gurung of  Dudhpokhari Rural Municipality, Lamjung was killed in the war.

The conflict in the Russia-Ukraine war has claimed the lives of Nepali citizens, particularly youths who have illegally joined the Russian army to participate in the war. So far, the Russian government has officially informed the Nepal government that 10 Nepalis who have joined its army have died. However, the death toll is believed to have reached at least 13. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement in August urged Nepali citizens not to go for security-related works in war-torn countries. 

“The attention of the ministry has been drawn to the news in social networking sites that Nepali citizens have joined foreign armies,” said the statement. “The policy of the Nepal government does not allow Nepali citizens to join foreign armies except for the fact that Nepali citizens are being recruited in the national armies of some friendly countries as per the traditional agreement reached between Nepal and those countries.”

The foreign ministry reiterated its statement issued on August 1 and asked Nepali nationals not to join any foreign army except those approved by the government.

A total of 115 Nepali families have submitted requests to the government seeking the rescue of their family members currently enlisted in the Russian army, as disclosed by Foreign Minister NP Saud.

About 200 Nepalis are believed to be working in different roles in the Russian Army, despite the government's advice to avoid risking lives there. Additionally, some Nepali youths are reportedly serving in the Ukrainian Army, but the exact number is not known.

Despite the government's efforts to prevent Nepalis from joining the armies of both Russia and Ukraine by ceasing the issuance of employment permits to these countries on January 4, many individuals have managed to reach Russia using student and tourist visas with the assistance of human traffickers and subsequently joined its military forces. Government agencies estimate that between 800 and 1000 Nepali youths have been recruited into the Russian army, with experts suggesting that the actual number could be even higher.

Similarly, Nepal has urged Russia to refrain from enlisting Nepali citizens into the Russian Army and to assist in repatriating those who have already joined the forces fighting in the Ukraine conflict. In the face of Nepali citizens losing their lives in the conflict, the families of the deceased are yet to receive the bodies and compensation. The Department of Consular Services of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy in Moscow are taking initiatives in this regard. While the Russian government has shown a positive stance towards compensating the families in accordance with its laws, confusion remains about the compensation process, and the bodies have not been repatriated yet.

Various stakeholders have actively collaborated to thwart the recruitment of Nepali nationals into the Russian army. However, a disturbing trend has emerged wherein individuals are being deceived under the guise of employment opportunities and subsequently dispatched to join the Russian army. Law enforcement has disclosed the prevalence of a widespread network engaged in such activities, prompting ongoing investigations. On January 6, the police apprehended two individuals associated with Alaska Travels on charges of human smuggling and fraud.

During a meeting at the Non-Aligned Summit in Kampala, Uganda on January 17, Nepal’s Foreign Minister NP Saud requested Russia not to recruit Nepali nationals into its army and to facilitate the return of those who have already joined. Minister Saud also said that Nepal only sends its nationals to foreign armies with which it has traditional arrangements.

In the meeting, Saud also asked Russia to repatriate the bodies of Nepali individuals killed in the Russia-Ukraine war and provide compensation to their families. The Russian side assured Minister Saud that necessary arrangements would be made according to Russian law.

Minister Saud has been preparing to go to Russia for two weeks, according to his private secretariat. He believes that this is a very big problem for Nepal and Nepali people.

“He also believes that this problem will be solved as there is longstanding friendship between Nepal and Russia. Therefore, he intends to personally visit Russia and take the necessary initiative,” said a member of the secretariat.

Here is a list of Nepali citizens who died in the Russia-Ukraine war:

  1. Sonu Sunar ( Kathebar, Pyuthan Municipality-4 )
  2. Bharat Shah (Tikapur Municipality-1 Durga Nagar, Kailali)
  3. Sandeep Thapaliya (Gorkha)
  4. Rupak Karki (Banganga-1, Kapilvastu)
  5. Dewan Rai (Kaski)
  6. Pitam Karki (Putali Bazaar-5, Syangja)
  7. Raj Kumar Roka (Melung-6, Dolakha)
  8. Ganga Raj Moktan (Ilam-5, Ilam)
  9. Kundan Singh Nagal (Ilam)
  10. Sajan Gurung of  Dudhpokhari Rural Municipality, Lamjung
  11. Sundar Moktan, 32, of Naukunda Rural Municipality-5


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