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From Hotel to War Zone: Kolkata Man’s Terrifying Ordeal in Russia

eNewsroom exclusive: The shocking reality of trafficked Indians being forced into Russian-Ukrainian War. CBI claims more than 180 men could have been duped into assisting the Russian army personnels in the ongoing war. The only person, a Kolkatan, to have escaped from the trap, narrates the entire story

Kolkata: Indians who were deceived and sent to fight for Russia against Ukraine have been killed or gravely injured, facing the most inhumane and life-threatening situations in Russia, states a survivor.

In a major international human trafficking case, several Indians were duped by fraudulent agents, falsely promised helper jobs in the Russian army but were sent to combat zones against Ukraine.

“Two among them were killed, one is injured, and another is missing,” said SK Mahamad Sarfaraz of Kolkata, the only person who managed to return as informed to eNewsroom.

“The Indians there are not prepared for this. They were promised jobs as helpers in the Russian Army but were sent to combat zones. Additionally, they were not provided the promised three to four months of training, only 20 days,” the 31-year-old Sarfaraz began sharing his entire story.

A senior secondary pass out, Sarfaraz used to work as a storekeeper with a five star hotel and sometimes even delivered meals to its premium customers. Due to a misunderstanding, he was forced out of his job. Desperate to find employment because of his father’s illness, he fell victim to the fraudulent scheme.

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Indians and Nepalis in Russia during their training | Arranged

“I saw an ad for a Helper job in the Russian Army by Baba Vlogs. When I contacted them, they said the service charge for the job would be Rs 300,000, and the salary would be between Rs 40,000 to 45,000. They claimed it would be a job-sitter visa, initially for three months, but later, after signing an agreement with the Russian Army, it would turn into a year-long visa,” he mentioned.

Sarfaraz was in touch with two individuals, Baba (real name Faisal Khan) and Puja. He initially deposited Rs 2 lakhs. Suddenly, he was asked to travel to Russia via Chennai and Bahrain to Moscow.

“I was jobless and gave them two lakhs, so I did not think much and left for Chennai. There, I found ten more people from other parts of the country. Significantly, neither in Chennai nor in Moscow did we face many questions from immigration authorities,” said Sarfaraz.

On December 23, Sarfaraz and others reached Moscow. Two days later, after opening a bank account and completing other formalities, they were given an agreement to sign, which was in Russian.

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Sarfaraz’s agreement paper with Russian Army

“Seeing the agreement in Russian, I called Baba and reminded him that he had told me there would be a translator to explain the agreement. But he said nothing was wrong, and everything would be fine. That was his guarantee. Baba told me over the phone. The army personnel also told us the salary would be 2 lakhs in Indian rupees, and we would get another 2 lakhs for signing the agreement. However, I only received Rs 50,000 in my account,” recalled Sarfaraz.

They were kept in the Ryazan army camp for twenty days of training. In the camp, nine Indians were already there, some recruited by Baba Vlogs. “Before the big shock, it was shocking to us that the training period would be only 20 days. Baba had told us that for the helper job, we would get three months of training,” he said.

During training, earlier recruits revealed to Sarfaraz that he would be sent to a combat zone with arms and ammunition to fight against Ukrainian soldiers. “While getting training, I saw soldiers with grave injuries. Some lost hands, some legs, some fingers. When I knew I would be sent there, I decided to escape from the camp.”

He mentioned, “Somehow, I reached the Indian Embassy on January 17 in Moscow to get an exit visa. But I had no passport, and officials told me that since I signed an agreement with the Russian Army, I would have to spend at least one more month in Russia before doing anything.”

Sarfaraz, with little money left, gave the full one-month rent to a hotel and stayed there for a month.

“But as I had requested Baba’s partners to send me back, and that they had cheated him. When they found out I reached the Indian Embassy, one Moin gave me life threats.”

Watch our video story on it

“While staying at the hotel, Sarfaraz was left with no money, “Even for buying food, I had no money. So I started begging. I even picked waste food from the dustbin and ate.”

After a month, on February 24, Sarfaraz returned from Russia. The matter was first highlighted when AIMIM’s Assaduddin Owaisi raised the issue of Mohammed Asfan, a resident of Telangana, who had been duped and sent to fight in the war against Ukraine. Asfan was killed on March 7. Earlier, Hemal Ashwinbhai from Gujarat died on Feb 21 when a grenade fell on him. Zahoor Ahmed from Kashmir has been injured, while Arbab Hussain is missing.

A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry has been initiated. Ministry of External Affairs’ spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal informed that they are raiding offices and seizing accounts of several agents involved in this human trafficking. “Several Indians have been duped to work with the Russian Army. We have strongly taken up the matter with the Russian Government for the early discharge of such Indian nationals. Strong action has been initiated against several agents who recruited them on false pretexts. We have conducted raids and searches in several cities. A case of human trafficking has been registered.”

The official also appealed to Indians, “We appeal to Indians not to accept any offers from agents claiming to provide helper jobs in the Russian Army.”

indians human trafficking russia army ukraine war faizal khan
Faisal Khan Alias Baba of Baba Vlogs

CBI, in its initial probe, found that several agents from Delhi and Mumbai are involved in this human trafficking. And that there are 180 Indians trafficked to Russia and joined the army there to combat.

Some officials have also met Sarfaraz in Kolkata and inquired about the way he was duped and returned from Russia.

The team members of Baba Vlogs are Faisal Khan (real name Baba), Moin, Nyzil and Ramesh. Sufian Baba and Puja. They are spread out in many parts. Faisal lives in Dubai, Moin, Nyzil, and Ramesh in Russia, and Sufian Baba and Puja in Mumbai.

Faisal Khan, the accused of duping, told Indian Express, “What happened to these men after reaching Russia is beyond my control.”

Meanwhile, Sarfaraz appeals to the Bengal government to get him a job to help his family. “I request Mamata Maa to provide me a job as my father’s medical expenses are too much. I lost all my savings in Russia and while going there.”

Shahnawaz Akhtar

is Founder of eNewsroom. He loves doing human interest, political and environment related stories.

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