About 15,000 Nepalis Fighting On Russia's Side In Ukraine - CNN

(MENAFN- UkrinForm) About 15,000 Nepali citizens are fighting in Ukraine as part of Russian troops, receiving a salary of at least $2,000 a month.

That's according to CNN , Ukrinform reports.

CNN journalists spoke with mercenaries who returned from the front and relatives of people recruited into the Russian army.

According to the article, the Russian government last year announced a lucrative package for foreign fighters to join the country's military. The package included at least $2,000 salary a month and a fast-tracked process to obtain a Russian passport. Nepal's passport is ranked one of the worst in the world for global mobility, and the Himalayan nation is among the world's poorest.

The Nepali government says about 200 of its citizens are fighting for the Russian army and that at least 13 Nepalis have been killed in the war zone. Four Nepali fighters are currently being held as prisoners of war (POWs) by Ukraine, according to Nepal's foreign ministry.

Read also: Russia seeks to draft migrants for war in Ukraine to avoid mobilization ahead of elections - British intel

But lawmakers and rights' campaigners in Nepal say those official estimates vastly underestimate the real numbers.

A prominent opposition Nepali lawmaker and former foreign minister, Bimala Rai Paudyal, said this week that between 14,000 and 15,000 Nepalis are fighting on the front lines.

Kritu Bhandari, a Kathmandu-based politician and social campaigner, who has become the leader of a group of family members of Nepali men fighting in Russia, says that around 2,000 families have approached her in recent weeks asking for help either to get in touch with their missing loved ones or to bring those who are still in contact home to the small South Asian nation.

Hundreds of families say their relatives in Russia haven't been in contact for many weeks or months, according to Bhandari.

After analyzing the TikTok profiles of 10 Nepali men who travelled to Russia to join the army, CNN used satellite imagery to geolocate them to the Avangard training center, a military academy outside of Moscow.

A Nepali soldier in Russia, who did not want to be named for security reasons, told CNN he had trained on rocket launchers, bombs, machine guns, drones, and tanks while staying at Avangard.

The soldier described his fellow academy cadets as coming from across the global south. He cited Afghan, Indian, Congolese and Egyptian classmates, among others. Class photos from Avangard posted on social media show dozens of what appear to be South Asian soldiers with native Russian instructors.

Following their basic training at Avangard, CNN traced at least two soldiers to a nearby secondary base known as the Alabino Polygon.

Several returned Nepali fighters who spoke with CNN blamed Russia for using them as cannon fodder in the war.

The Nepali government has now banned its citizens from traveling to Russia for work.

Kathmandu police said they broke up a racket last month, leading to the arrest of 18 people allegedly involved in sending Nepali men to join the Russian army.


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