Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, responding to a statement by Khatmandu’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirmed on Monday that six Nepalese nationals had been killed while serving with the Russian army.
One individual, named as Bibek Khatri, was captured by Ukrainian forces. The prime minister was unable to provide further details on where, how or exactly when the deaths occurred.
According to news outlets in Nepal, the government named those killed as Sandip Thapaliya, Rupak Karki, Dewan Rai, Pitam Karki, Raj Kumar Rokka, and Gangaraj Moktan. The ministry has requested that Russia return the bodies of those killed and to provide compensation to the victims' families, the statement said.
A spokesperson said it believed Nepalese nationals to be serving with both Ukrainian and Russian forces but was unable to confirm the total involved.
Milan Raj Tuladhar, Nepal’s ambassador to Russia, said that he believed as many as 200 Nepalese nationals were serving in the Russian army as mercenaries. He said that they try to send back those the embassy identifies as arriving in Russia after being told “about the high risks associated with joining the Russian army.”
He added that many were being recruited by “agents” in Nepal with promises of large salaries before being smuggled into Russia.
“We have been sending back at least one Nepali national a day. They were all brought to Russia to serve in the army,” he said.
There were a number of reports earlier in the year that Moscow had stepped up its efforts to recruit foreigners working or studying in Russia with the prospect of obtaining citizenship after one year’s service in response to the decree by Russian President Vladimir Putin in May.
A June investigation by Bellingcat examined video of Nepalese recruits for the Wagner PMC which was geolocated to both the Avangard military complex west of Moscow and in the Belarusian city of Baranavichy.
In response to this and other reports, the Kathmandu government appealed to Moscow to stop using its citizens as mercenaries and urged them to return any men serving with Russian forces back to Nepal.
Nepal has a long tradition of providing soldiers for the British and Indian armies based on long-standing formal agreements. Nepalese men have served with the British Army since 1815 as “British Gurkhas,” with India carrying on the tradition after independence and the “Gurkha Contingent” has served with the Singapore Police since 1949.
Nepal is also currently the second largest troops-contributing country for United Nations Peacekeeping Forces in a number of missions around the world. There are also reports of Nepalese volunteers serving with the French foreign legion and even the US army, as well as filling security and landmine clearance posts in the Middle East and Africa.
Estimates suggest that between 25 and 30 percent of Nepal’s GDP in 2022 was derived from salaries earned from abroad through “official” overseas contracts and the money brought back by its “unofficial” soldiers.
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