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Ukraine: India asks Russia to ensure the safe return of Indians fighting war

Ukraine: India asks Russia to ensure the safe return of Indians fighting war

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Wednesday strongly raised the issue of Indian nationals allegedly forced to fight for the Russian Army in Ukraine’s war zone and pressed for their safe return when he met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

The two foreign ministers met on the sidelines of the 24th Annual Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), being held in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Their meeting took place days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s planned visit to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. While the visit has not been announced officially, it is reported that PM Modi may visit Moscow next week.

“Good to meet Russian FM Sergey Lavrov in Astana today. Wide-ranging conversation on our bilateral partnership and contemporary issues. Noted the progress in many areas since our last meeting in December 2023,” Dr. Jaishankar posted on X, formerly Twitter.

“Raised our strong concern on Indian nationals who are currently in the war zone. Pressed for their safe and expeditious return,” he added in his post, which also had photos from the meeting.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry too made a similar post on X along with photos from the meeting and the hashtag #RussiaIndia: Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Foreign Minister of India Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar hold talks on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (#SCO) Heads of State Council meeting. Astana, July 3.”

Ever since the Russia-Ukraine war broke out in February 2022, India has been pressing Russia to ensure the safety and repatriation of its nationals employed by the Russian Army and has taken immediate action on receiving information about Indians trapped in the war zone.

According to reports, around 200 Indian nationals were recruited as security helpers in the Russian military. By mid-June, it emerged that four Indian nationals had died in the war zone, according to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

On June 12, Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said, “Since the first day, we have constantly been discussing this matter with the Russian authorities, the system, and the leadership. All of our efforts are aimed at keeping the Indians safe.”

After the death of two Indians was confirmed, the MEA said India had strongly taken up the matter with Russia and sought early release and return of all Indian nationals who were with the Russian Army.

India also demanded that there be a verified stop to any further recruitment of Indian nationals by the Russian Army and that such activities would not align with our partnership.

By mid-June, only about 10 Indians working as support staff with the Russian military were released and repatriated to India.
Additionally, Dr. Jaishankar discussed the global strategic landscape and exchanged assessments and views with Lavrov.

He also paid homage to the statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Pushkin Park in the Kazakh capital. He was joined by members of the Indian community and friends of India.

Earlier on Tuesday, Dr. Jaishankar met Deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Murat Nurtleu and discussed expanding Strategic Partnership and India’s increasing engagement with Central Asia in various formats.


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