PM Modi raises issue of Indians working in Russian Army; Moscow agrees to release them

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Moscow, Jul 9 (PTI) Russia on Tuesday agreed to India's demand to ensure early release and return to home of the Indian nationals working in the Russian military as support staff after Prime Minister Narendra Modi "very strongly" raised the issue with President Vladimir Putin.

Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said the Russian side promised early discharge of all Indian nationals from the service of the Russian Army.

"The prime minister strongly raised the issue of early discharge of Indian nationals who have been misled into the service of the Russian Army. This was taken up strongly by the prime minister and the Russian side promised early discharge of all Indian nationals," he said.

It is learnt that Modi raised the issue during his informal talks with Putin over dinner at the Russian leader's dacha or country home on Monday evening.

"The prime minister raised the issue very strongly that we should try and get all the Indian nationals back to India as early as possible," Kwatra said at a media briefing.

He said the two sides will work on how expeditiously the Indians can be brought back home.

To a specific query, Kwatra said India anticipated the number of its nationals serving in the Russian military to be roughly between 35 to 50 out of which 10 were already brought back.

"We have mentioned it in the past that while we do not have the precise indication on the specific numbers, we anticipate them to be roughly between 35 to 50 out of which we have managed to bring back 10 of them," he said.

People familiar with the talks said Russia is expected to release the Indians from various Russian military units within weeks.

Last month, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the issue of Indian nationals serving with the Russian Army remains a matter of "utmost concern" and demanded action from Moscow over it.

On June 11, India said two Indian nationals, who were recruited by the Russian Army, had recently been killed in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, which took the number of such deaths to four.

Following the deaths of two Indians, the MEA demanded a "verified stop" to further recruitment of Indian nationals by the Russian Army.

In a strongly-worded statement, it said India demanded that there be a "verified stop to any further recruitment of Indian nationals by the Russian Army and that such activities would not be in "consonance with our partnership." In March this year, 30-year-old Hyderabad resident Mohammed Asfan succumbed to injuries sustained while serving with Russian troops on the frontlines with Ukraine.

In February, Hemal Ashwinbhai Mangua, a 23-year-old resident of Surat in Gujarat, died in a Ukrainian air strike while serving as a "security helper" in the Donetsk region.

Prime Minister Modi was on a two-day high-profile visit to Russia from Monday to hold the 22nd India-Russia annual summit with President Putin. PTI MPB AKJ AKJ