Nepali nationals recruited in Russian army face fatal consequences

Published On: March 23, 2024 08:15 AM NPT By: Devendra Basnet

DANG, March 22: Nepalis recruited into the Russian army are often deployed at the forefront of the battle, says a returnee mercenary, adding, “If you refuse to advance, you risk being shot by your own commander.”

According to Sirjan Bahadur Singh from Kanchanpur, who enlisted in the Russian army, the commanders overseeing Nepalis in the Russian army are Russians.

Singh shared in a telephone interview with Republica that Russians position themselves behind, placing Nepalis and other foreigners at the front lines. 

“Those who resist moving forward are executed by the Russian commander. They killed one individual from Dang and two to three from eastern Nepal."

Soldiers from various countries, including Nepal, find themselves in the front lines of the conflict with Ukraine, fighting for Russia. Feeling threatened by both the Ukrainian forces and his own commander, Singh decided to leave the Russian army and return home. He managed to escape and safely arrived back home on March 14.

"The threat of an attack from the Ukrainian side was constant. I felt endangered even by the army commander of the country where I was enlisted. Deciding it was unbearable to remain more vulnerable, I made plans to return home and managed to escape and return home safely on March 14,” Singh mentioned.

Initially, there were 105 Nepalis in Singh's battalion within the Russian army. However, their numbers decreased over time. Even though Singh and the other Nepalis were in the same battalion, the barracks were different. "Following a drone attack by Ukraine, the Russian commander deployed in the war instructed the Nepalis to advance to the front line, keeping Russians behind," Singh explained, recounting a story from a Nepali friend, "Four Nepalis were killed by the commander for refusing to advance due to fear."

After realizing they were not safe even from their own commander, Singh and his friends planned their escape. They managed to reach another barracks after an hour-and-a-half journey on foot. Suspected of attempting to flee, they were sent back to their original barracks and punished.

Their first escape attempt was unsuccessful, but Singh stated they were successful on their second try. "During a night parade in the barracks, three of us, including myself, seized the opportunity to escape," he recounted. Once outside, Singh contacted the broker who had facilitated his travel to Russia.

With the help of locals, they reached Moscow by a taxi. In Moscow, Singh encountered a middleman. He informed immigration that he was in Russia on a tourist visa and wished to return to Nepal, even though his visa had expired. "Immigration forgave my oversight and allowed me to leave," Singh shared, adding, "However, a friend who was with me complicated matters by revealing his enlistment in the Russian army. He was detained by the immigration, and his whereabouts are now unknown." Singh said he paid Rs 750,000 to join the Russian army in August 2023.

Ghansing's Journey: from debt to tragedy in Russia 

Ghansing Pun of Rolpa Triveni, who returned home after working in Qatar for several years, found himself unable to support his family. In hopes of making a living, he planned to open a mobile shop in Libang. However, the business did not prosper as he had hoped. Seeking better fortunes, he moved to Ghorahi, Dang, and continued the same business, but success eluded him there as well. Worse, he found himself in debt. Unable to repay his debts, he finally decided to join the Russian army in search of better earnings. His journey to Russia, fueled by the dream of financial stability, ended tragically.

"He went to Russia to earn money and joined the Russian army," said Ghansing's uncle, Dammar Pun. Despite his family's objections, Ghansing left for Russia three months ago, traveling via New Delhi, India. "We warned him of the dangers in Russia and urged him to return even after he reached Delhi," recounted Dammar.

By the time Ghansing arrived in Russia, he had already spent Rs 500,000. He stayed in touch with his family for a while after reaching Russia and was in daily contact with his brother in Qatar.

"Last month, he was suddenly out of contact. After military training, Russian soldiers usually remain in contact with their families until they are deployed to the Ukraine border," Dammar explained. "So, when he didn't get in touch for a few days, we hoped there was a simple explanation."

However, as the silence stretched on, the family grew anxious. Reports surfaced that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine had intensified, and there were casualties among Nepali individuals at the front lines.

"Tragically, Ghansing too was killed in the conflict with Ukraine. A friend from Rolpa, who was with Ghansing, called to inform us that he died after being struck by a bomb from a Ukrainian soldier. Initially, we couldn't believe it and sought confirmation from various sources. Unfortunately, all sources confirmed his death," Dammar shared.

Ghansing's family learned from his friend that Ukrainian forces had targeted the barracks of the Russian army where Ghansing was stationed. A rocket bomb hit the barracks, and Ghansing was killed instantly.

Throughout the three months he served in the Russian army, Ghansing was unable to send any money home. The family's financial struggles have worsened with additional debt  incurred for Gansing’s trip to Russia. Ghansing's death has not only been a personal loss but has also deepened the financial crisis for his family. "He incurred debts while attempting to do business here, and joining the Russian army only increased our debt. Now, we face the daunting task of repaying this debt and caring for the children. It's a significant burden on the family," Dammar lamented.

Leave A Comment