NEW DELHI: India has consistently pushed Moscow to ensure the safety and repatriation of its nationals recruited by the Russian Army, foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra said on Wednesday after the external affairs ministry confirmed two more Indians had been killed in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Vinay Mohan Kwatra said the Indian government has taken the issue very seriously, and has taken “immediate action” on receiving information about “Indians in the war zone (X/AmbVMKwatra)

The total number of Indians killed while serving with the Russian military on the frontlines with Ukraine since the beginning of the year has gone up to four, and some 200 Indians have reportedly been recruited by the Russian Army as support staff. On Tuesday, India demanded a “verified stop” to further recruitment of Indians by the Russian Army.

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“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,” Kwatra told a media briefing in response to a question on the matter.

“We have clearly told the Russian officials that all Indians in the war zone, howsoever they got there is another matter, should be returned [to India],” he said, speaking in Hindi.

Whenever Indian authorities have received information about the recruitment of Indians by the Russian Army or about them being sent to the war zone, they have made efforts along with domestic agencies to stop such “illegal recruitment”, he said.

Kwatra said the Indian government has taken the issue very seriously, and has taken “immediate action” on receiving information about “Indians in the war zone”. He added, “We have contacted their families, examined how the individual reached [Russia], and asked Russian authorities to respond and this will continue.”

The external affairs ministry said late on Tuesday that two Indians who had been recruited by the Russian Army were recently killed in the “ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine”. It didn’t give details about the Indian nationals who were killed.

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. Hemal Ashwinbhai Mangua, a 23-year-old resident of Surat in Gujarat, died in a Ukrainian air strike in February while serving as a “security helper” at Donetsk.

“India has also demanded that there be a verified stop to any further recruitment of our nationals by the Russian Army. Such activities would not be in consonance with our partnership,” the statement said.

India has not criticised Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and only called for the two countries to end hostilities and return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy to resolve their differences.

The external affairs ministry also urged Indian nationals to “exercise caution while seeking employment opportunities in Russia”.

Indian authorities had earlier acknowledged that 20-odd Indians had sought help to be released from their jobs with the Russian Army and that 10 of them had been repatriated.

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