Updated February 22nd, 2024 at 13:26 IST

6 Indians Duped into Joining PMC Wagner, Fight War in Ukraine after Promised Jobs in Russia

“Please save us, we are victims of high tech fraud,” the 22-year-old Indian man said in a footage after sending SOS from a Russian soldier's phone.

Reported by: Zaini Majeed
PMC Wagner headquarter and the screengrab from footage showing Indian men sent to fight war in Ukraine. | Image:Republic TV/AP
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At least six Indian men were duped by the foreign recruiters into joining the Kremlin-linked deadliest mercenaries group PMC Wagner and were coerced to fight in the ongoing war in Ukraine.

The Indians were promised jobs as security helpers in Moscow last year in December, but they ended up as members of the armed private paramilitary company Wagner, whose fighters waged the bloodiest battles in the heavily battered town of Bakhmut in the eastern Donbass region.

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The kins of the Indians say that the men are “stranded” in Russia and are being forced to fight the war after becoming victims of a “fake” recruitment racket. They met recruitment agents during a visit to Dubai, last year and were offered substantial monthly wage over Rs 2 lakh. The men also entrusted a security deposit of Rs 3.5 lakh to the recruiter. After returning to India in November, they left for Russia a month later on a visitor’s visa. There, the six Indian men were coerced into military service and ended up fighting in the Ukraine conflict. 

The Indian men were promised hefty pay and lucrative jobs in Russia as part of the racket’s deceptive scheme. Some sources say that they were recruited by a Maharashtra man who runs a popular YouTube channel and offers security personnel and helper jobs in Russian Federation.

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‘Please, save us’: Indian men from an unknown location

The Indian men, clad in Army fatigue, shared a distressing footage for the family members appealing for help. The footage was obtained by Republic TV but has not been shared to keep the identity of the six Indian men confidential. In the nearly 2-minute long video, one of the men details, “I came to Russia for a job through an agent," and then names the recruiter as ‘Baba' who runs ‘Baba Vlogs’ on Youtube, adding that they were all duped and have ended up in Russian mercenaries group.

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The man in the Army uniform continues that they were promised a ‘security and helper’ employment but have been enlisted to fight in the Russia-Ukraine war instead. “They say, we will not send you on the border,” the man in the video says, referring to the PMC Wagner. “We do not know where will they [Wagner group] take us from here, neither are we aware about where we are currently, but it's all forests," the man says.

“Please save us, we are victims of high tech fraud,” the 22-year-old Indian man said from an unknown location, detailing how he was promised employment as security aide but ended up on the war's frontline, becoming a victim of recruitment deception.

The families of the men were devastated to learn that they ended up on the war’s front in the contentious eastern Donbass region. They were deployed approximately 40kms from the Ukrainian border in an unknown location, and managed to send an SOS from the phone of a Russian soldier.

Three of the six men are residents of Kalaburgi, Karnataka, while another man aged 22 hails from the state of Telangana. One Indian is a resident of Kashmir while the other hails from Gujarat. The four Indian men seen in the footage have been together as they are acquaintances, the other two, according to the 22-year-old seen in the video, are posted to an unknown location. “We do not know where the other two were taken,” he said.

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A screengrab from footage where 4 Indian men appeal for help as they ended up in the Russian mercenaries group, Wagner. (Republic TV)

PMC Wagner, whose founder Yevgeny Prigozhin died in a mysterious plane crash after declaring mutiny against Russian defense Ministry, is now headed by his son Pavel Prigozhin. The mercenaries group resumed recruitment in November 2023 under the directive of Pavel.

The hiring drive started in the cities of Perm and Novosibirsk and the eligibility criteria on an advert read that the mercenaries group need "the desperate and the brave, the best of the best.” Sources at the Wagner's Novosibirsk office confirmed that the group was looking “to recruit civilians who do not hold a criminal record,” as PMC previously heavily recruited men from the prisons.

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PMC Wagner has been acting as the arm of the Russian National Guards, known as Rosgvardia, since the death of Prigozhin. The recruitments resumed after being halted for months following Wagner fighters’ failed march on Moscow in June last year. PMC’s military base was later dismantled in the south of Russia by the defense ministry.

 

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Published February 22nd, 2024 at 12:44 IST