India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducted raids across 13 locations, detaining suspects involved in a trafficking network that sent Indian citizens to fight for the Russian army in its ongoing Ukraine invasion, AFP reported.

The CBI's statement indicated that the traffickers had been operating as an organized network, enticing Indian nationals through social media platforms like YouTube and local contacts/agents for lucrative jobs in Russia.

“Trafficked Indian Nationals were trained in combat roles and deployed at front bases in Russia-Ukraine War Zone against their wishes,” the statement reads.

The CBI has identified “around 35 instances” of Indians being sent to Russia and is working to identify more potential victims.

India's foreign ministry previously stated that it was working to secure discharges for approximately 20 Indian nationals in the Russian army.

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The CBI named four suspects in the network, including Dubai-based recruitment agent Faisal Khan, who advertised Russian army jobs on his social media channel Baba Vlogs.

Khan, who facilitated the travel of 16 Indian citizens to Russia late last year for what he claimed were support roles in the army, told AFP last month that he was “taken aback” when recruits were issued weapons and decided to halt the recruitment process.

This statement appeared amidst the background of recent reports that seven Indian citizens released a video message saying they were coerced into joining the war in Ukraine on the side of Russia.

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The individuals arrived in Russia as tourists in December last year. They agreed to take a trip to Belarus offered by a travel agency. Unaware of the visa requirements for Belarus, Indian citizens were left stranded when the agent disappeared after asking for money.

Detained by Belarusian police upon arrival, they were handed over to Russian authorities and forced to sign documents in Russian without an interpreter present.

After undergoing 15 days of military training, they were deployed to the Russo-Ukrainian war. Indian citizens claim they were told that refusal meant facing 10 years in prison.

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In February, multiple Indian recruits told AFP that they were enticed to join with offers of lucrative salaries and Russian citizenship, only to find themselves deployed to the front lines. Initially promised non-combat roles, they were trained with weapons such as Kalashnikov assault rifles before being sent to Ukraine.

Previously, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of India confirmed reports that Indians in the Russian army are seeking help for demobilization, with some already being released.

India had requested that Russia allow its citizens, who had signed contracts with the Russian army, be released before the expiration of their contracts.

The ministry stated that several Indian citizens serve on contract in the combat zone in “support work,” without specifying the exact number.

Reports also indicated that last year, around 100 Indians were hired under contracts for a minimum period of one year, and several have since been released.

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