Ignored By India & Lured By Russia, Nepali Youngsters ‘Fall’ In Ukraine War; Families Struggle To Get Bodybags Home

Lack of opportunities at home and the promise of a bright future in a foreign land had driven thousands of youngsters from Nepal to join the Russian forces fighting Ukraine.

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However, after months of fighting, they have been calling home from the battlefront to say they were not trained and have not got the salaries they were promised. Many of them were buried after dying in the foreign war.

The quest of their families to bring their bodies back home has, so far, proved to be desultory. Shanta, a woman from Kathmandu, was informed by the Russian Army about the death and burial of her elder brother and has since been trying to get his body back for last rites.

In other scenarios, they are captured by the Ukrainian forces. Advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Anton Gerashchenko released the video of a captured Nepali soldier who entered a contract with the Russian Army. The soldier named Bibek Khatri from Baradia, Nepal, was captured by the Ukrainian Armed Forces near Avdiivka.

“My family is in trouble. My mother doesn’t work, we need money. So, I went for it (joining the Russian Army),” Khatri can be seen saying this in the video. He insists that it was his friends who suggested joining the Russian forces because of the money. “I wanted to return to my mom as a successful man. So, I joined,” Khatri adds.

Nepali Journalist Bhadra Sharma says that the guy is from a poor family, and his mother is bedridden owing to paralysis. “Nepal failed to secure a job; Ukraine made him prisoner. Ailing mom begs for his early release,” Sharma wrote on X.

When contacted, Sharma told the EurAsian Times: “Youths from several countries, including Nepal, have joined the Russian defense force. Against the agreement signed with the Russian army, they were sent to war before completing training. They were trained on how to handle drones and guns.”

“After joining the Russian force, some have died there in war, whereas others are injured. The deceased were buried in Russia. Family members are struggling to get the body back home for final rites. But the Russian Army has not allowed them to do so,” he adds.

The plight of Shanta, a Hindu, is unfathomable as she seeks to bring back the body of her brother Sandip Thaplia, buried in a Russian cemetery 200 miles from Moscow. She believes her brother’s soul will not rest in peace unless his body is cremated. Sandip Thaplia had entered a contract with the Russian defense ministry to take part in “activities to maintain or restore international peace” for a meager salary of US$750.

“A few families have applied at Nepal’s foreign ministry seeking help to bring the bodies of their loved ones back to Nepal. But the Nepal government, which stood in favor of Ukraine, is not taking any initiatives,” informs Sharma.

Rajendra Bajgain is the Member of Parliament from the Gorkha district, from where Thaplia hailed. Talking to the EurAsian Times, he said: “The Nepali government is doing nothing. It is so unfortunate that our PM was elected from this very district. He and his family are one of the voters for Prime Minister Prachanda.”

Many families whose sons and husbands went to Russia to take part in the war are afraid to come on record for fear of retribution from the Russian forces.

Enroute To Another Nation’s War

As the EurAsian Times earlier reported, the trend of Nepali youth joining the Russian forces caught the Nepal government off guard. The Nepali dispensation claimed that it did not have any bilateral pacts with Russia, and the Nepal Embassy in Moscow asserted that the youngsters are going in their “personal” capacity.

As soon as President Putin signed a decree on May 16, 2023, simplifying the process of obtaining Russian citizenship for foreign nationals who join its ranks in this war, Nepali youngsters facing a steep unemployment rate of 11.12 percent at home rushed to join the Russian Army.

With Russia suffering heavy losses in the self-initiated war against Ukraine, it offers fast-tracked citizenship to foreigners who enter a year-long contract with the Russian Army in what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation.”

When the author visited Nepal in October 2023, she found a recruiting agency in Kathmandu helping the youngsters secure visit visas to Russia. It is suspected that some educational consultancies are also involved in sending Nepali youths to Russian forces in the name of sending ‘students’ for studies.

Besides this, some YouTube channels are advertising Russian army vacancies. These channels are encouraging Nepali youths to join Russian forces. They go to Russia either as students or as tourists.

“Youngsters working in Gulf countries and Malaysia are also heading to Russia to work as mercenaries in the hopes of getting better salaries,” Sharma adds.

Most of these youngsters are deployed on the frontlines. Nepali Gorkhas have a long history of joining the British Army and later the Indian Army. They are known as “fearless” warriors. Gorkhas fought for the British in the two world wars and later in Iraq and Afghanistan.

File Image: Putin and Zelensky

But, in the Russia-Ukraine war, Nepalis are fighting on both sides. “If this situation continues, Nepalis will kill each other in the Russia-Ukraine war,” said Rajendra Bajgain, a member of the governing coalition in Nepal’s Parliament. Bajgain has been raising the issues of Nepali youth joining someone else’s war time and again in the country’s parliament.

According to the International Labour Organisation, Nepal is a young country, with 63.7 percent of the total population below the age of 30. The unemployment rate of youth aged 15-29 is 19.2 percent. Over 400,000 young people are estimated to enter the labor force annually. Of these, only around 80,000 secure a job, forcing others to migrate overseas.

Apart from the British Army, the Indian Army once offered a lucrative opportunity to the Nepalis. However, as the EurAsian Times had earlier reported, not a single Nepalese Gorkha will be joining the Indian Army in 2023.

The Communist government in Nepal has decided not to allow the recruitment of the 1,300-odd Gorkhas who join the Indian Army annually as the big Asian neighbor implemented the Agnipath scheme.

  • Ritu Sharma has been a journalist for over a decade, writing on defense, foreign affairs, and nuclear technology.
  • She can be reached at ritu.sharma (at) mail.com
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