Indian media reports say the domestic crime investigative agency has exposed a large-scale network of slave traffickers supplying people to Russia for forced service and participation in the war against Ukraine.

The Indian Express reported on March 9 that the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) uncovered a human trafficking network that supplied people to fight in the war in Ukraine on the side of Russia.  The CBI reportedly found that admissions to relatively unknown private universities, fee discounts, visa extensions are some of the ways travel agents from across the country duped dozens of men into going to Russia and eventually being forced into the country’s war with Ukraine.

The agency made these revelations a day after conducting searches at around 15 places in seven cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Ambala, Chandigarh, Madurai, Thiruvananthapuram and Chennai — and ascertaining that various agents at these locations, as well as three currently based in Russia, had allegedly duped Indian youths, primarily students.

The development comes against the backdrop of two Indian youths — one from Gujarat and another from Telangana — dying on the frontlines, according to The Indian Express.

“They were deceived. The agency employee who hired them said they would only work in Moscow. Instead, they received 15 days of training and were sent to Ukraine, where they were forced to fight,” Mohammed Imran, the brother of one of the victims, told The Indian Express.

The Ministry of External Affairs reportedly issued a statement in this regard on March 8.  “Several Indian nationals have been duped to work with the Russian Army.  We have strongly taken up the matter with the Russian government for early discharge of such Indian nationals,” MEA’s official spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal was cited as saying. 

As reported by The Indian Express, the path of several such youths to Russia often started with the search for a job. Several families testified that the young men had come across a YouTube Channel promising jobs in Russian government offices in Moscow, but once the men reached the country, they were swiftly trained and sent to the frontlines.

Militarnyi reported on March 8 that according to the investigation, a group of people, including three Russian nationals, recruited Indians on the pretext of getting admission to private universities in Russia.  However, after reaching Russia, the passports of these Indians were taken by the agents in Russia, and they were forced to fight the Russian side against their will.

According to Militarnyi, the CBI has claimed that it has been ascertained that some human trafficking victims were also grievously injured in the war zone. On March 7, it reportedly became known that one of the recruited Indian citizens had been killed.

The CBI has also found that one of the agencies based in Delhi allegedly sent around 180 people to Russia, mostly on student visas.

The CBI has reportedly claimed that it has been ascertained that some human trafficking victims were also grievously injured in the war zone.  

India’s intelligence agencies are currently investigating the involvement of Russian embassy staff in human trafficking in India.