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    Why mercenaries from Nepal are going to the front for Russia


    In the war against Ukraine, Russia is also filling the ranks of its own army with foreign mercenaries. This is tearing a hole in many families far from Europe.

    The Russian army has been fighting in its war against Ukraine for almost two years now. Thousands of Russian men have now died on the battlefield and so the Kremlin is constantly taking new measures to fill the ranks of its troops. According to a report, Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to raise the age limit for officers from 50 to 70. The British Ministry of Defense's intelligence update recently stated that an increase in the age limit for ordinary soldiers was also planned.

    But Putin also relies on men from abroad: According to research by the US broadcaster CNN, he lured at least 15,000 Nepalese into the war against Ukraine with a lucrative package. They were promised a monthly salary of 2,000 US dollars (around 1,850 euros) and an accelerated process to get a Russian passport – a tempting offer for the men, because Nepal is not only one of the poorest countries in the world, but also one whose passport offers comparatively little freedom of travel.

    “I didn't join the Russian military for fun”

    Ramchandra Khadka is one of the mercenaries from Nepal who went to war against Ukraine. “I didn't join the Russian military for fun. I had no job opportunities in Nepal,” he tells CNN. The 37-year-old only recently returned to Nepal after being injured at the front. “In hindsight, it wasn't the right decision,” he says today about his deployment in Ukraine. “We didn't know we would be sent to the front so quickly and how terrible the situation would be.”

    His deployment began in September last year. When he arrived in Moscow, he received two weeks of weapon training and basic equipment. He was then taken to the front in Bakhmut – a city in eastern Ukraine where some of the heaviest fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces took place. The losses on both sides of the war were so high that the place was soon referred to as a “meat grinder” among soldiers. “I still get a headache when I think about the terrible scenes I saw in the war zone,” Khadka recalled in an interview with CNN.

    “There is not an inch of land in Bakhmut that has not been hit by bombs. All the trees, bushes and greenery… They are all gone. Most of the houses have been destroyed. The situation there is so cruel that you want to cry would,” says the 37-year-old. He believes Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine is wrong. “All countries should respect the sovereignty of another country. It is not right that people of one country are killed in such a heinous manner. It is not right that tens of thousands of people die for the interests of a few,” says Khadka.

    Video | After heavy fighting, Avdiivka is already under Russian control

    Source: reuters

    Thousands of families fear for their loved ones

    The Russian war is also tearing a hole in many families in Nepal. According to official information from the Nepalese government, more than 200 men are said to be fighting for Putin on the front in Ukraine, and 13 have died. However, CNN's research suggests that there are far more men who went into combat.

    Kritu Bhandari, politician and leader of a group of family members of Nepalese mercenaries, tells the broadcaster that around 2,000 families have contacted her and asked for help. They often lost contact with their relatives at the front or tried to bring them back to Nepal.

    Nepal's government has now banned its citizens from traveling to Russia or Ukraine to fight on the front lines. She assumes that a small number are also fighting in the Ukrainian army. Work permits have now been suspended for both countries “to minimize potential risks and losses for Nepalese nationals entering these war-torn countries,” the British “Guardian” quoted the director of the foreign employment department, Kabiraj Upreti, at the beginning of this year year. He left it open how illegal travel should be prevented.

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