Nepalis joining the Russian army amidst risks of fatalities

Published On: December 12, 2023 05:10 PM NPT By: Sabita Khadka

KATHMANDU, Dec 12: Nepalis aspiring for foreign employment have put themselves in jeopardy by taking advantage of the Russia-Ukraine war. Despite the associated risks, the surge in Nepali youth heading to Russia this year is attributed to the pursuit of employment opportunities.

According to the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE), 744 Nepalis obtained work permits and arrived in Russia between the fiscal years 2018/19 and 2022/23. Notably, the number of young individuals venturing to Russia has increased at the beginning of the current fiscal year. Between the months of Baishakh (mid-April to mid-May) and Kartik (mid-October to mid-November), 533 people went to Russia with work permits, marking a significant increase over the past five years. Nepali youth have been drawn to Russia for various purposes, including study, visit, and employment.

While Nepali youth had been traveling to Russia for study and work before the Russia-Ukraine war, the conflict has accelerated the trend. According to the statistics of the DoFE, the number has increased when comparing each month of the current FY 2023/24.

In April 2022, only 17 individuals secured work permits for Russia, a number that increased to 179 in Jestha (mid-May to mid-June). This increase coincided with the Russian president's announcement of a plan to grant permanent residency to foreign nationals who served in the army for a year. Consequently, 179 Nepali citizens traveled to Russia in Jyestha.

Additionally, 33 individuals went to Russia in Ashadh (mid-June to mid-July), 53 in Shrawan (mid-July to mid-August), 161 in Bhadra (mid-August to mid-September), 47 in Ashwin (mid-September to mid-October), and 43 in Kartik (mid-October to mid-November).

Tragically, since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war on February 24, 2022, six Nepalis who joined the Russian army have lost their lives, and one Nepali youth remains a hostage in Ukraine. Bibek Khatri, a Nepali citizen who joined the Russian army, is currently in captivity in Ukraine, as per the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA). Diplomatic initiatives are underway to secure his return to Nepal. Officials say that the Nepali youths who are forced to work abroad are reluctant to join the Russian army and the state is unable to provide reliable employment to the youth.

"Nepali youths are reaching Russia through India and the UAE. It is not seen that they are being taken into the army, but those who go know that they are going to the army," said a government official.

“Nepalis are ready to join the foreign army facing limited employment opportunities domestically. Not only that, as soon as you say that you are a Nepali, you are known as Bir Gorkhali all over the world. This is also the reason why Nepali youths are recruited in the army," he said. The official said that the Nepali youth who join the Russian army will receive a monthly salary of more than Rs 300,000.

According to Kabiraj Upreti, information officer of the DoFE, according to the data, it is not possible to say that all of them joined the Russian army. However, it seems that most of the Nepalis who are going to Russia these days are going there after arranging for their recruitment into the Russian Army. We estimate that before going directly from Nepal to Russia and joining the army there, they go to other countries and reach Russia from there.

After the start of the war, Russia announced that it would give its citizenship to soldiers who served for one year. Not only that, the official also says that they have promised to provide attractive facilities. In addition, there are strict conditions such as withdrawing money from the youth who want to leave the army by scrapping the agreement in the middle. But he said that there is no agreement with the Nepal government about military recruitment. Some officials said that after some training period of the Russian army, they are recruited into the army.

"There is no system to send soldiers from Nepal to countries other than Britain and India," he said, "But there are Nepali soldiers in France, Russia, Afghanistan, Ukraine and other countries. Even in America, there are some such soldiers who have obtained a green card but have not renounced their Nepali citizenship.

Nepali youth recruited by the British Army are also sent to the Singapore Police, the security of the Sultan of Brunei, etc. Information Officer Upreti of the DoFE informed Republica that Nepalis who have received work permits apply for Russia on the pretext of other jobs and do not directly mention joining the Russian army.

"Many Nepali youths do not directly go to Russia to join the Russian army, but the purpose of going abroad is to earn money. When the monthly salary of the Russian army is good, most of the young people who have gone to Russia and other countries think of joining the Russian army,” he said.

Some Nepali-speaking youth have become famous after posting a video on Tiktok saying that they have joined the Russian army. As a result, not only on visas for education, tourism, etc, but also ex-servicemen and policemen from Nepal who are willing to go for foreign employment and those who have not got visas in other countries, desire to join the Russian army. “There is no employment opportunity in the country. It is difficult to sustain livelihood. If I could serve as a soldier there, both me and my family would be happy. I wish to go there,” said a young man who is aspiring to join the Russian army.

Salary of more than Rs 300,000

After the completion of the one-year contract, many young people are attracted by the fact that they will be able to obtain Russian citizenship, passport and take their family to Russia. However, experts have pointed out that Nepali youth joining the Russian army is a security risk and against the law.

Officials of the DoFE said that the recruitment of Nepali citizens into the military forces of other countries despite being illegal or a security risk is directly linked to the rampant unemployment in Nepal. “Army is prepared for conflict in any country. But they have to note potential income sources rather than the battlefield risk. In Nepal, individuals are compelled to earn and provide support not only for themselves but also for their entire families," said an official.

It seems that the purpose of Nepalis who go abroad for study or visit is to work and earn money. Experts believe that they may have been attracted to the Russian army because of the attractive salary which is more than RS 300,000 a month.


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