Approximately 15,000 Nepalese citizens are fighting in Ukraine as part of the Russian troops and receive a salary of at least $2,000 per month.
This was reported by the Ukrainian news agency Ukrinform on Sunday, citing the US TV channel CNN. CNN journalists spoke to mercenaries who returned from the front and to relatives of people who were recruited into the Russian army.
According to reports, the Russian government last year put together a lucrative package for foreign fighters who want to join the country’s military. The package included a monthly salary of at least $2,000 and an accelerated procedure for obtaining a Russian passport.
Four Nepalese are held as prisoners of war
The Nepalese passport belongs loudly CNN among the worst in the world when it comes to global mobility, and the Himalayan country is among the poorest in the world. According to the Nepalese government, around 200 Nepalese citizens are fighting for the Russian army. So far, at least 13 Nepalese have been killed in the war zone. According to the Nepalese Foreign Ministry, four Nepalese fighters are currently being held as prisoners of war by Ukraine.
However, human rights activists in Nepal believe the actual figures are higher. Also a prominent Nepalese opposition MP, the former foreign minister Bimala Rai Paudyalsaid this week that between 14,000 and 15,000 Nepalis would be fighting for Russia on the front lines.
Kritu Bhandari, a Kathmandu-based politician and social activist, has now become the leader of a group of family members of Nepalese men fighting in Russia. She explained that around 2,000 families had contacted her in recent weeks asking for help to either contact their missing loved ones or bring them home to the small South Asian country.
Hundreds of families reported that their relatives in Russia have not had any contact for many weeks or months, Bhandari said. After analyzing the TikTok profiles of 10 Nepalese men who traveled to Russia to join the army, CNN used satellite images to locate them at a military academy outside Moscow.
A Nepalese soldier in Russia, who did not want to be named for security reasons, told CNN he trained on rocket launchers, bombs, machine guns, drones and tanks during his stay at the training camp. The soldier talked about fellow cadets from across the Global South. He named Afghan, Indian, Congolese and Egyptian comrades, among others.
In group photos posted on social media, dozens of what appear to be South Asian soldiers can be seen with Russian instructors. Several returned Nepalese fighters accused Russia in CNN interviews of using them as “cannon fodder” in the war.
The Nepalese government has now banned its citizens from traveling to Russia to work. Police in Kathmandu said they arrested 18 people last month who allegedly organized Nepali men to serve in the Russian army.