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Indians ‘tricked’ into fighting for Russia with promise of jobs in Dubai

Azad Yousuf Kumar moved to UAE looking for a job in housekeeping but ended up in a warzone
Azad Yousuf Kumar moved to UAE looking for a job in housekeeping but ended up in a warzone - WASIM NABI

At least 20 Indian citizens are trapped on the front lines of the war in Ukraine after being tricked into travelling to Russia and then forced to join the army.

Relatives of some of those who have been sent to fight told The Telegraph that their loved ones had been lured to the United Arab Emirates by the promise of a job in Dubai, only to be transferred to Russia.

In a two-story house in Poshwan village on the Indian side of Kashmir, Raja Begum, 65, yearns for her son’s safe return.

Her son, Azad Yousuf Kumar, 31, travelled to the UAE last December after being promised a housekeeping job by an independent consultant, Faisal Khan.

The agent, who is originally from India but settled in the Middle East, regularly posts such opportunities on his YouTube channel, Baba Vlogs.

The Kumar family say at least one Indian citizen has been killed in the fighting
The Kumar family say at least one Indian citizen has been killed in the fighting - WASIM NABI

Surrounded by relatives and speaking through tears, Raja said she was seeking help in trying to bring him home.

“Faisal had arranged a visa for him to the UAE. Initially he was instructed to travel to Mumbai and from there to Chennai,” Ms Begum said.

“It’s a mystery how he ended up in Russia. For 40 days none of us could establish any contact with him,” she said, adding that her son paid Baba Vlogs around £3,000 for the job in the Middle East.

After months went by without contact, in mid-February, Ms Begum’s elder son received a call from his brother on an unknown phone number. She said the entire family was shocked to learn that he was in trouble and that he had been tricked into joining the Russian army to fight in Ukraine.

“He said that he stayed in Sharjah for 16 days and later they were told there were no jobs in the UAE. Instead, he would be taken to Russia to work in the kitchen,” Ms Begum said. “He was immediately taken to a secret military base. For two weeks he and others were taught how to use guns and throw grenades,” she said, adding that Kumar was forced to sign a contract in Russian, a language he didn’t understand.

Frontline areas

Sajad Ahmad Kumar, Begum’s elder son and Kumar’s brother, said that Baba Vlogs have trapped over a dozen men from India in a similar way. He said that none of these Indian citizens went to Russia to fight in Ukraine of their own accord.

“Russian troops are forcing them to move into frontline areas where they face Ukrainian soldiers near the Black Sea on its southern border,” Mr Sajad said.

“All the people held against their will in Russia are facing mental and physical torment. They are denied separate spaces for meals and using the washroom,” he added.

Mohammad Amin Sheikh, a resident of Karnah village of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, said that his son Zahoor Ahmad Sheikh, 28, went missing from Russia about two months ago.

“He travelled to Russia in search of employment with no desire to engage in any conflict. Had he willingly joined the Russian military I wonder why would he reach out for help? He was continuously pleading for help so that his life could be saved,” Mr Sheikh said. “I hope the Government of India takes up the matter with the Russian government as soon as possible and bring all the Indian citizens back home safely,” he added.

Deceiving people

“We also went to the local police and officially complained about Faisal and his team for tricking people into joining a conflict they had nothing to do with,” Sheikh said. “Furthermore, authorities in the UAE should arrest all the members of Baba Vlogs for deceiving people,” he added.

Sajad, Kumar’s brother, said that at least one Indian citizen has died in the heavy fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces, adding that they have asked the Indian government for help.

“All the families of the Indian citizens are talking to each other,” Sajad said. “We are worried about our loved ones’ safety. Russian authorities should let all the Indian residents return and rejoin with their families,” he added.

Randhir Jaiswal, spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, said that the Indian government is aware that around 20 people are stuck in Russia and they are doing their best to get them released as soon as possible.

“We have also told people not to venture in the war zone or get caught into situations which are difficult,” Mr Jaiswal said. “We are trying our best and we are in touch, regular touch with Russian authorities both here in New Delhi and also in Moscow and we are trying to do our best,” he said, adding that India was deeply committed to the “welfare of all Indians.”

Faisal Khan, the vlogger, did not respond to The Telegraph’s request for comment.