Indians Lured by Fake Job Offers Face Dangers in Russian Army


Voice of America reports: When Mohammed Asfan, 30, left his home in Hyderabad last November, he told his family that he was going to Russia to work as an “army helper” and earn many times more than what he made as a salesman at a garment shop in the south Indian city.

Lured by a YouTube video posted by a Dubai-based recruiting agency that promised a high salary and permanent residency in Russia after six months, Asfan thought he had found a way to secure his family’s future. He was assured by the recruiting agency that he would not be sent to the front lines of the war against Ukraine.

But in late December, he told his family by telephone from the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don that he had been forced to undergo weeks of military training and was being sent to the front lines.

This past Wednesday, Asfan’s family was notified that he was dead.

“When he spoke to us in December, he said that his passport had been taken away and he had been forcibly deployed to the front lines in Ukraine. Since then, for over two months we did not receive any call or news from him,” Mohammed Imran, Afsan’s brother, told reporters in Hyderabad this week.

“Another Indian youth who joined the Russian army but later managed to escape informed us a few weeks ago that Asfan had been wounded by a bullet. Then suddenly we got the devastating news.”

Mohammed Imran said his brother would never have gone to Russia if he had known he would be required to fight. Baba Vlogs, the recruiting agency, ”duped my brother. It is responsible for my brother’s death,” he said.

Afsan was the second Indian citizen to be confirmed dead while serving with the Russian army.

Hamil Mangukiya, 23, from the western Indian state of Gujarat, was killed on February 21 in the embattled Donetsk region of Ukraine, his family confirmed. Mangukiya traveled to Russia after being offered a security guard’s job, but he was taken to the front line and forced to take part in the war, his family reported.

Relatives have appealed to the government of India in the past two weeks on behalf of some of the dozens of Indian men who have been tricked into fighting for the Russian army and want to return home. Estimates of the number of Indians caught up in the war against their will range as high as 100.

Aazad Yusuf Kumar, 31, traveled to Dubai in December 2023 from his hometown in the state of Jammu and Kashmir after being promised a “hotel housekeeping job” in the United Arab Emirates.

A new father who had grown up impoverished and worked as a manual laborer, Kumar readily took up the offer from an independent “employment agent” in hopes of providing a better life for his newborn son.

Kumar’s family says that after paying the agent about $3,600, he was taken to an unknown place in Russia to do “kitchen work.” He was then forced to receive military training for two weeks alongside other Indians.

Sajad Ahmad Kumar, Aazad Kumar’s elder brother, told VOA that Aazad was hospitalized for three weeks after being hit by a bullet during training.

“After he recovered from the injury he was sent to the battlefield. When I spoke to him on January 14, he said that he would be sent to the front line within a day or two. That day he was crying badly over the phone. He said that he wanted to get out of his job, which he said was very risky.

“He also asked me to do our best to help him get discharged from the job and return home,” Sajad Kumar said. “It has been almost eight weeks that we have not heard from him. We are very anxious.”

The Indian government issued a statement Friday saying it was aware of some Indians who have been “duped” into joining the Russian army and sent to the front lines of the war, and that it had taken up the matter with Moscow seeking their early discharge.

Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal also said that “strong action has been initiated” against the agents who recruited the men “on false pretext and promises.”

“A case of human trafficking has been registered against several agents. We once again appeal to Indian nationals to not be swayed by offers made by agents for support jobs with the Russian army. This is fraught with danger and risk to life,” Jaiswal said.

Jaiswal added that the families of about 20 men have sought help from the Indian government, which is doing its best to locate them and bring them home.

Like several others, Aazad Kumar had been lured into leaving his country by Dubai-based agent Faisal Khan, his family said.

Khan, the face behind the Baba Vlogs YouTube channel that has over 305,000 subscribers, contends in an introductory video on his channel that he is committed to not being “fake” with his claims.

Some of the videos uploaded to the channel in the last few months promise jobs as waiters in Dubai and food delivery and “army helper” opportunities in Russia — asserting that those who take up the offer will not be asked to fight in the war.

Khan did not respond to VOA’s email request for a comment.