India arrests 4 recruiting for Russia, Polish border guards detain Russian deserter

by AFP Staff Writers

New Delhi (AFP) May 8, 2024

Indian authorities have arrested four people accused of “trafficking” citizens of the country to fight for the Russian army in Ukraine.

Two years since Russia’s invasion began, tens of thousands of its soldiers have been killed in Ukraine and Moscow has been on a global quest for more troops.

At least two Indian soldiers have been killed in the conflict, with several recruits telling AFP they were shipped to the frontlines under false pretences.

A statement published by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) late Tuesday said four men had been arrested, including one who had worked in Russia as a translator for a network facilitating the recruitment of Indian soldiers.

“Investigation is continuing against other accused persons who are part of this international network of human traffickers,” the statement added.

The arrests come two months after the investigators conducted raids across 13 locations in India and detained several people for questioning.

The CBI said then that it had found at least 35 instances of Indians being sent to Russia.

India’s foreign ministry had earlier said it was working to secure discharges for around 20 Indian nationals in the Russian army.

Several Indian recruits told AFP in February that they were lured into joining up by promises of high salaries and Russian passports before being shipped to the frontlines.

The soldiers said they had been promised non-combatant roles but were trained to use Kalashnikov assault rifles and other weapons before being sent to Ukraine.

Russia’s army held off a much-hyped Ukrainian counter-offensive last year, and it has since made gains on the front lines as Kyiv struggles with ammunition and manpower shortages.

India is a longstanding ally of Russia and has shied away from explicit condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine.

Unemployment remains high in India despite rapid economic growth and huge numbers seek work abroad each year, including thousands who had sought employment in Israel after labour shortages sparked by the war against Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Polish border guards detain Russian deserter
Warsaw (AFP) May 8, 2024 -
Polish border guards said Wednesday they had detained a Russian deserter who illegally crossed into Poland, a staunch Ukraine supporter, from the territory of Moscow ally Belarus.

The Russian embassy in Warsaw said it had not been informed of the matter and questioned the truth of the announcement.

“We have detained a Russian deserter. He had his military papers on him,” border guard spokeswoman Katarzyna Zdanowicz told AFP.

“The individual is a 41-year-old man who illegally crossed the Belarusian border into Poland, in the northeast,” she said, without providing further details.

The soldier “had fought in Ukraine”, Zdanowicz told TVN24 television.

She was unable to say whether the desertion into Poland was the first case of the sort since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in 2022.

Polish media reported that the man wore civilian clothes and was unarmed.

The Russian embassy said it “has not received any information from Polish officials on the detention”.

“The Polish side is required to inform the embassy” of such things under the bilateral consular convention, it added, quoted by Russia’s TASS state news agency.

“In view of this, we intend to ask the Polish foreign ministry whether a Russian citizen was really detained.”

Belarus and Russia are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation alliance that is made up of several ex-Soviet countries.

Moscow and Minsk are close defence partners, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko allowed Russian forces to attack Ukraine from his territory in February 2022, when tens of thousands of Russian troops were stationed in his country.

Relations between Warsaw and Minsk have been strained for years, due to a political crackdown in Belarus and a tussle over migrants.

They have sunk to new lows since Lukashenko backed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The border guard announcement comes as Poland reels from the revelation this week that a Polish judge had fled to Belarus and reportedly asked for political asylum over spying allegations he denies.

Warsaw has since opened an espionage probe as the judge, Tomasz Szmydt, had access to classified information in Poland.

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