Over 200 Nepalis may be serving in the Russian army, Prime Minister Dahal says

The government has recently revealed that at least six Nepali nationals have died while fighting Ukrainian forces.


Prime Minister Dahal addresses reporters at Maoist party office in Parisdanda on December 11. PHOTO: RSS/ THE KATHMANDU POST

December 13, 2023

KATHMANDU – Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has said the government has received information suggesting that more than 200 Nepali nationals may be currently serving in the Russian army.

Talking to reporters at his party, CPN (Maoist Centre), headquarters at Parisdanda in Kathmandu on Monday, Dahal said the government is investigating the case of Nepali citizens serving in the Russian army.

Only last week, the government revealed that at least six Nepali nationals have died while fighting Ukrainian forces.

“We are working to ascertain the number of Nepali citizens serving in the Russian army,” said the prime minister, adding, “we have information that Nepalis are also serving in the Ukrainian army.”

It has been almost 22 months since Russia launched an invasion of neighbouring Ukraine following years of conflict between the two countries.

The Nepal government doesn’t permit its citizens to serve in foreign armies except in India and the United Kingdom. But that hasn’t stopped Nepali youths from independently joining the militaries of several other countries.

Those killed while serving in the Russian army were Sandip Thapaliya from Gorkha, Rupak Karki from Kapilvastu, Dewan Rai from Kaski, Pitam Karki from Syangja, Raj Kumar Rokka from Dolakha and Gangaraj Moktan from Ilam. The government is struggling to repatriate the bodies of those killed in the war between Russia and Ukraine.

We have information that those who reached Russia on visit or student visas have joined the Russian army, said Dahal, adding, “We are actively looking into the matter.”

“We have official information that some Nepalis [fighting for Russia] have been taken hostage by the Ukrainian army, and there is also information that some Nepali nationals are serving in the Ukrainian army. Those who reached Russia on visit and student visas are now enlisted in the Russian army and six of them have been killed. Now we have learnt that over 200 Nepalis are serving in the Russian army, and this is a new and challenging situation for us,” said the prime minister.

Reports from various districts suggest that some Nepali nationals serving in the Russian army have gone missing, and three Nepali nationals in it have been captured by the Ukrainians. However, the government does not have comprehensive data on how many Nepali citizens are serving in Russian and Ukrainian forces since the start of the war on February 24, 2022.

Nepali ambassador to Russia Milan Raj Tuladhar had recently told the Post that some manpower agencies and individuals are running rackets to traffic Nepalis to Russia by promising attractive financial benefits if they enlisted with the Russian army. With the help of human traffickers, many Nepalis have reached Russia on student and tourist visas and joined the army.

In May, Russia paved the way for recruiting foreign nationals in its army following a decree by President Vladimir Putin.

Some people, who were duped by the manpower agency and individuals, reported to the Nepali Embassy in Moscow that middlemen were active in bringing people into Russia and illegally recruiting them into its army. Based on the information provided by the Nepali Embassy in Russia and people who were returned from the country, the Nepal Police on December 5 arrested members of a gang involved in sending Nepali youth to fight for the Russian army.

The police team arrested 12 individuals after an operation conducted over several days at various locations of Kathmandu. These individuals were sending Nepali youths to Russia via India.

The spokesman of District Police Range Kathmandu, Superintendent of Police Kumod Dhungel, confirmed the arrest of individuals involved in activities ranging from recruiting youths into the Russian army to arranging documents and visit visas.

The ambassador added that Nepali nationals were being lured with promises of big money and were mostly smuggled into Russia, with each individual paying up to Rs1 million to ‘agents’.

“We have been sending back at least one Nepali national a day. They were all brought to Russia to serve in the army,” he told the Post earlier. “If the individual does not possess a Nepali passport, we issue a travel document and send him back to Nepal.”

On August 1, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement urging Nepali citizens not to join foreign armies in war-torn countries.

“The attention of the ministry has been drawn to the news in social networking sites that Nepali citizens have joined foreign armies,” said the statement. “The policy of the Nepal government does not allow Nepali citizens to join foreign armies except for the fact that Nepali citizens are being recruited in the national armies of some friendly countries as per the traditional agreement reached between Nepal and those countries.”

Nepali youths are fighting each other from two opposing sides, said Dahal, adding, “The government is probing the matter and taking measures to repatriate those serving in the Russian and Ukrainian armies.”

Similarly, the prime minister said that efforts are on to bring back Bipin Joshi who went missing on October 7 following the Hamas’ attack on Israel.

“We have mobilised all mechanisms to free Joshi from captivity and bring him [home],” said the prime minister.

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