NewsNepalese soldiers in Russian army may outnumber official figures in Ukraine conflict

Nepalese soldiers in Russian army may outnumber official figures in Ukraine conflict

On Tuesday, February 6, Nepalese people protested in front of the Russian embassy in Kathmandu.
On Tuesday, February 6, Nepalese people protested in front of the Russian embassy in Kathmandu.
Images source: © Getty Images | Subaas Shrestha

4:00 PM EST, February 11, 2024

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The government of Nepal has stated that 200 of its citizens have been recruited to the Russian army, with 13 of them already killed in the conflict. Nonetheless, parliamentarians and human rights activists in Nepal argue that these official numbers are significantly underestimated.

Nepalese in the Russian army engaged in the conflict in Ukraine

Bimala Rai Paudyal, opposition MP and former foreign minister, alleges that between 14,000 and 15,000 Nepalese are currently being engaged on the front line. Her estimate is based on testimonies given by individuals returning from the war zone. She calls on the Russian authorities to provide accurate data regarding the number of Nepalese in the Russian army.

- The Russian government should have information regarding the number of foreign fighters serving in the Russian army, and the specific number of Nepalese fighting for Russia - she said.

The Nepalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reported that four Nepalese mercenaries are currently in Ukrainian captivity.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the other hand, has not responded to CNN's inquiries regarding the exact number of Nepalese recruits in the Russian army and the number of those who have been killed in the conflict.

Kritu Bhandari, a politician and social activist from Kathmandu who heads an association for family members of Nepalese individuals involved in the Ukrainian conflict, has indicated that in recent weeks, about 2,000 families have reached out to him for assistance in contacting their missing relatives or bringing back those who have only been in intermittent communication with their families back home.

Bhandari's statement also reflects reports from hundreds of families alleging that their relatives in Russia and Ukraine have been uncontactable for several weeks or months.

Loss of contact with families for extended periods

Januki Sunar's husband left for Russia three months ago to join the army, but he hasn't contacted his family in Nepal for two and a half months, CNN reports.

The last time Sunar spoke with her husband, he informed her that the Russian military was relocating him and forbade him from taking his mobile phone. The husband did not reveal his new posting.

- I'm extremely anxious. I have no idea as to his current situation. He could possibly be injured… I wonder if they will ever return his phone to him. The anxiety is very distressing. I'm doing my best not to dwell upon the worst case scenario - she added.

She reinforced the point that her husband, who was the sole breadwinner, formerly involved in silver jewelry and kitchen utensil manufacturing, joined the Russian army primarily for financial reasons - to provide improved living conditions for his family.

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