KATHMANDU: The deaths of three Nepali youths while serving in the Russian Army over the past three months reveal a growing trend of young people from Nepal voluntarily joining the Russian and Ukrainian armies, attracted by the prospect of improved wages.
The deceased individuals, identified as Pritam Karki from Syangja, Raj Kumar Rokka from Dolakha, and Ganga Raj Moktan from Ilam, were engaged as helpers for the Russian Army and lost their lives on November 15 during the conflict with Ukraine.
The Nepali Embassy in Moscow is unaware of how Nepali youths are being recruited into the Russian and Ukrainian armies. Milan Tuladhar, the Nepali ambassador to Russia, states that students who came from Nepal for employment and study are being recruited into the army. “It is difficult for us to get information about youths who have joined the armies of the two countries,” Tuladhar said.
Tuladhar estimates that more than 200 Nepalis may have already been recruited into the Russian and Ukrainian armies.
The Nepali Embassy in Moscow has not revealed details about the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the three Nepalis or the current location of their bodies. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not officially disclosed any information on this matter.
Ambassador Tuladhar said that he is working to get information from the relevant authorities in Russia and Ukraine regarding the recruitment process and the situation of the Nepali youths serving in their armies. “It has been reported that a significant number of Nepalis are coming to Russia for employment and subsequently joining the army,” Tuladhar said. “Due to Russia’s vast geographical expanse, it is challenging for us to pinpoint their locations and understand how individuals on employment visas are being recruited into the army.”
In response to the situation, the Nepali Embassy has formally requested Russian officials to investigate the recruitment of Nepali youth into the army.
Sewa Lamsal, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that efforts were underway to gather more information about the Nepalis who lost their lives while working for the Russian Army.”We have asked the Nepali Embassy in Moscow to get more details about the three youths,” she added.
While the conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues, there is a noticeable increase in Nepalis independently traveling to the region. Madan Dahal, the director-general of the Department of Foreign Employment, said that Nepali youths are not permitted to join the Russian Army or any army as such. “Even though Nepali youths are heading to Russia with individual work permits, we are not aware of their recruitment into the army. We cannot stop individual permits when applicants submit letters from the employer company,” he added.
298 reached Russia in 4 months
298 Nepalis have left for Russia in the first four months of fiscal year 2023/24, according to the Department of Foreign Employment. This marks a stark contrast to the previous fiscal year when not a single Nepali went to Russia for employment through institutional arrangements. A total of 368 left for Russia through individual arrangements in the fiscal year 2022/23.
A nexus between government staffers and recruitment agents?
Alarming revelations suggest the involvement of recruitment companies collaborating with government staffers to send Nepali youths to Russia through the issuance of individual labor permits. Agents of recruitment companies are enticing young individuals with promises of better pay.
Foreign employment experts argue that the government appears to be standing as a mute spectator while recruitment agents collaborate with government staffers to send Nepali youths to Russia. “It is impossible for youths with basic education to obtain a Russian visa through individual arrangements,” employment expert Ganesh Gurung said, pointing to the increasing number of youths traveling to Russia on individual permits as evidence of a troubling nexus.
“The increase in the number of youths heading to Russia on individual permits substantiates the existence of a nexus.”
In the wake of Nepali youths losing their lives while serving in the Russian Army, the Ministry of Labour, Employment, and Social Security is facing pressure to investigate officials involved in issuing permits within a questionable setting.