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CBI records statement of family of JK man tricked into fighting for Russian army

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Srinagar, Mar 31 (PTI) The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has recorded the statements of the family members of Azad Yousuf Kumar, a Kashmiri man who was allegedly unwittingly thrust into the Russia-Ukraine conflict after being deceived.

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The agency recorded their statements recently after filing an FIR against 19 people and visa consultancy firms linked to the exploitation of Indian youth.

Azad's elder brother Sajad Ahmed Kumar told PTI that the CBI questioned him about his brother's situation and wanted his presence at their New Delhi office. However, he was unable to comply due to current financial circumstances.

Sajad also said the families of 12 other affected Indian men have been contacted by the CBI and they emphasised their desire for the safe return of their loved ones.

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The CBI had on March 8 dismantled a human trafficking network funnelling Indian individuals into the war zone and identified key facilitators, including agents based in Russia.

These agents' allegedly enticed Indian youths with promising job offers in Russia, only to coerce them into military involvement in the conflict.

Azad, a 31-year-old engineering graduate from Pulwama, initially sought job opportunities in Dubai but was misled by false promises, ultimately finding himself embroiled in the war as a mercenary for the Russian army.

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His family narrated his perilous situation at the Ukraine border and implored the government to intervene for his safe return.

According to the family, Azad left for Dubai on December 14 last year in search of a decent job after being lured by a YouTuber, Faisal Khan. But little did the young man know that he would be fighting a war.

"He was promised a job in Dubai by the YouTuber. However, he ended up being a mercenary for the Russian army," the family said, urging the central government to step in and rescue him from the war he never desired to fight.

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"He is right now at the Ukraine border. We spoke to him a few days ago and he told us that his life is in danger. He was forcibly told to sign a contract which was in Russian language and that's how he landed up at the Russia-Ukraine border. Then he was sent to the frontline with other Indians," Sajad said.

He said Azad manages to call the family during evening time for two to three minutes. "They are constructing bunkers in the forests right now. They have moved further from Black Sea. They occupy the areas and then make bunkers there," he said, quoting his brother.

He said Azad was given a 15-day-long military training during which he was hit by a bullet and needed to be hospitalised for two weeks. "He has a two-and-a-half-month-old son whom he has not even met so far." Sajad said he was told by the agents that Azad will be given a job as a kitchen helper but he was sent with the Russian Army to fight the war.

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Despite Indian authorities' efforts to engage the Russian government and provide requisite documentation, little progress has been made towards their return. Azad's family expressed deep concern about his well-being, highlighting the dangers he faces daily in unfamiliar territory.

The CBI's investigation exposed a web of deceit where individuals were trafficked under false pretenses, manipulated into combat roles, and left stranded without recourse. The agency emphasised the grave risks faced by these individuals, forcibly thrust into the conflict zone against their will.

As the Russia-Ukraine war continues to claim lives and displace millions, Azad's story sheds light on the harrowing reality faced by many unwitting victims caught in the crossfire of geopolitical conflicts. PTI ZEH SKL TIR TIR

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