3 Kerala men conned, trained for 2 weeks, forced to fight a war that isn’t theirs in Russia

Only one of the three youngsters — related to each other — has contacted back, saying he is under treatment for injuries from the war front.

ByDileep V Kumar

Published Mar 23, 2024 | 2:00 PMUpdatedMar 23, 2024 | 2:00 PM

Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan visited the families of the youths on Thursday, 21 March, 2024.

What began as a quest for employment in Russia seemingly soon turned into a harrowing ordeal for three youths hailing from a coastal village near Kerala’s capital city Thiruvananthapuram.

The youths have been identified as Prince, Vineeth, and Tinu who are related and hail from Anchuthengu.

They reportedly travelled to Russia in January seeking work. But their families in Kerala now say that the three found themselves on the frontlines of a conflict they never signed up for.

According to the families, the trio had dreams of making a better life abroad but fell victim to the deceitful promises of a fraudulent recruiting agency.

They added that instead of finding jobs, the trio found themselves amidst the chaos and danger of the Ukraine war, taking part in combats they never imagined.

While an official confirmation is yet to come on the incident, it seems the youths joined many others from various parts of the nation who ended up as fighters for Russia after being lured by the temptations of lucrative job opportunities there.

Also Read: Discharge Indians from Russian Army, Delhi tells Moscow

A call

Prince’s brother Prasanth told South First that they came to know about the trio’s misery when Prince called them from a hospital in the first week of March.

“That’s the first time he called, though he arrived there on 3 January. He told me that he was admitted to a hospital in Moscow as he had sustained injuries in Russia’s war against Ukraine,” said Prasanth.

“When asked further, he said he and the other two were deceived by the agent and ended up as fighters in Russia,” recounted the brother.

The families said the “agent” — whom they identified as Alex — was a native of Thumba in Thiruvananthapuram and was living in Russia.

They alleged that Alex and his relative Priyan — a resident of Kazhakootam in Thiruvananthapuram — had lured the youths to Russia promising jobs in the security sector and at a packing unit with good pay packages.

“Prince told me they were provided with accommodation upon arrival. Then, within a couple of days, some Russians arrived at their place along with Alex,” said Prasanth.

He added, “They asked them to sign some documents. As they were in Russian, they couldn’t understand what was written in it. The Russians also took their passports and mobile phones. They were then taken to a training camp.”

According to Prasanth, the boys were provided with 13-15 days of training, including using weapons.

“He told me that after training they were separated and he didn’t know the whereabouts of the other two,” said Prasanth.

Related: Have strongly taken it up with Moscow, says MEA on Indians in Russian army

Collected ₹21 lakh

Anchuthengu Grama Panchayat president V Laiju told South First that the agent who tricked the youths also collected ₹7 lakh from each of them.

“The family told me that Prince was admitted to a hospital in Moscow for the past month. He might have suffered injuries in a shell attack. Only Prince made contact. The other two’s whereabouts are not known,” said Laiju.

Meanwhile, the panchayat president said that though the families knew the trouble the youths met in Russia they initially kept mum.

“It might be their ignorance. Or they might have thought revealing it might cause problems for them. When one of the families informed me, I alerted the concerned authorities,” said Laiju.

Help promised

Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan visited the families of the youths on Thursday, 21 March.

He subsequently said in a Facebook post that the Union government would do everything possible to bring the youths back safely.

He added that the Embassy of India in Moscow had been asked to look into this matter.

Letter from Kerala CM to Union Minister S Jaisankar

Meanwhile, in a letter to Union Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan sought urgent intervention “to facilitate early and safe repatriation of the Indian citizens stranded in Russia, including the three youths from Kerala”.

Vijayan also alleged that the matter was taken up with the Ambassador of India in Moscow, Russia, and the joint secretary of the ERS Division of the Ministry of External Affairs.

The state sent two letters to them on 16 and 19 March, but was yet to receive a response, he added.

At the same time, the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) intervened as the families approached it with pleas to find the youths.

The kin are also said to have urged the CMO to take action against the fraudsters.

Related: Indian men conned by YouTuber, forced to fight in Russia-Ukraine war

Advisory issued with helpline

In the wake of reports that the three youths were stranded in the Ukraine-Russia war zone, NoRKA-Roots — the field agency of the Department of Non-Resident Keralites Affairs (NoRKA) and Protector of Emigrants under the Ministry of External Affairs came out with an advisory on Friday.

The advisory urged jobseekers to exercise caution while applying for employment opportunities in Russia and Ukraine, which are at war.

It also reminded them to choose only licensed recruiting agencies to look for overseas jobs.

The advisory also invited complaints from those who had fallen victim to job-related fraud in foreign countries.

Such complaints could be mailed to spnri.pol@kerala.gov.in or dyspnri.pol@kerala.gov.in registered directly through helpline 0471-2721547.