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Exclusive: Mumbai job aspirants conned and conscripted in Russia

Updated on: 22 February,2024 06:48 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Faizan Khan |

Youngsters sent to Russia on the pretext of being given security helper jobs for hefty fees get shock of life after being sent to military units

Exclusive: Mumbai job aspirants conned and conscripted in Russia

Mumbai resident Iliyas with his friends Mohammed Sameer Ahmed and Sufiyan Mohammed

Key Highlights

  1. Numerous Indian nationals from various parts of country have been deceptively recruited
  2. These Indians were conned by YouTubers and social media influencers
  3. However, they were forced into military activities

Amidst the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, numerous Indian nationals from various parts of the country, including Mumbai, have been deceptively recruited to fight along the frontlines with the Russian army. These Indians were conned by YouTubers and social media influencers, who promised them jobs as helpers and security personnel in Russia. However, upon reaching there, they were forced into military activities, made to handle weapons and undergo combat training, leaving them in peril.

MiD-Day spoke with  Mumbai-based agent Faisal Khan, who operates a YouTube channel ‘Baba Blogs’ and is involved in recruitment. Many of the individuals currently stuck in Russia have accused him of making false promises, resulting in their entrapment amidst the ongoing conflict. Khan informed mid-day that he too has been deceived by agents based in Russia, who themselves happen to be Indian nationals.

A group of Indian nationals stuck in Russia. Pic/agent Faisal Khan
A group of Indian nationals stuck in Russia. Pic/agent Faisal Khan

“I am traumatised by the fact that several youths have been trapped in the red zone of Russia, which has never occurred in my recruitment career before. I visited Russia to check on the job openings and met with the agent Moin, who hails from Rajasthan. Moin informed me about a recruitment drive in Russia for army helpers and security personnel. However, after sending several candidates, I began receiving complaints that they had been sent to the red zone and given weapons training, including the use of grenades,” he said.

Khan asserted that he hadn’t deceived anyone and has for the past month been working tirelessly to ensure the safe return of all the candidates. “I have sent around 25 candidates, including two from Mumbai, and am in constant communication with their families. In fact, I have advised the families in Hyderabad to file complaints, even if they are registered against me. I want this issue to be highlighted in the media so that the government can work through the embassy to ensure the safe return of these Indian citizens,” he added.

Shaikh Mohammed Tahir, 24, from Gujarat (right); a Russian army officer; and one Sarfaraz
Shaikh Mohammed Tahir, 24, from Gujarat (right); a Russian army officer; and one Sarfaraz

Families seek help

Meanwhile, their families have sought assistance from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), desperately waiting for any updates on their loved ones' well-being. One young man from Gujarat managed to return home, but many others remain trapped or missing in Russia, leaving their families in a state of anguish and uncertainty.

Shaikh Mohammed Tahir, 24, a resident of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, recently returned from Russia and recounted the harrowing experience he endured. “I came across a YouTube video by Baba Blogs advertising security jobs in Russia with attractive salary packages. Intrigued, I applied and obtained a visa. Upon arrival in Moscow from Chennai, we were escorted to a private apartment where, after a day, we signed a year-long contract. The agent assured us it was a security job, but we struggled to understand the contract as it was in French.”

Surendar Paul from Kashmir and Prabin Lamba from Darjeeling
Surendar Paul from Kashmir and Prabin Lamba from Darjeeling

According to Shaikh, two days later, they were taken to a military camp in the city of Ryazan (Russia) where they were informed they would be joining the army. “For the next 15 days, I underwent training on how to operate advanced automatic weapons. I was terrified and bewildered by the situation. Later, I was transported to a border location where I spent a month inside a bunker. The area was embroiled in the conflict between the Ukrainian and Russian armies. Initially, I was instructed to stay in groups, but later I was compelled to use automatic weapons near the border. I was forced to engage with the Ukrainian army whenever they fired upon us. Additionally, I received training in handling grenades. I spent two months at the border, where we received food only once a day,” he said.

“There are still several Indians stranded in border areas of Russia, enticed by promises of lucrative job opportunities. I was assured a monthly salary of R2 lakh but received only R50,000. At times, I was even tasked with burying fallen army personnel amid the conflict. One Indian was injured during gunfire. I travelled with a group of 13 individuals, and I believe many others arrived in separate groups, expecting security jobs but ending up enlisted in the border army. I pray that no one else has to endure the hardships I witnessed in Russia,” Shaikh said.

Faisal Khan, Mumbai-based agentFaisal Khan, Mumbai-based agent

He also mentioned that upon his return, he learned that an FIR had already been lodged against Baba Blogs in Hyderabad. This entity has been responsible for sending numerous groups to Russia under the guise of security job opportunities, only for them to be coerced into joining the Russian army and fighting in the war against Ukraine. “Until Monday, I was in contact with at least 7-10 individuals, but now all their numbers are switched off. I urge the Indian government to intervene and facilitate their safe return,” he said. Shaikh said that he safely returned to India with the assistance of a retired Indian individual who had previously served in the Russian army and had connections there.

YouTube videos

Mohammed Asfan—a 30-year-old resident of Hyderabad—fell prey to a similar scam. After watching YouTube videos by Baba Blogs and other agents, he applied for a visa and travelled to Moscow with his friends Arbab Husain and Zahoor Ahmed. “My husband, a graduate, was seeking job opportunities abroad. Upon seeing the online recruitment videos for security positions in Russia, he applied, enticed by the promised R1.5 lakh salary. They went there and after signing the contract, were immediately deployed to a border area without any training,” said Asma Shireen.

The visas of Hyderabad resident Mohammed Asfan and his friends Zahoor Ahmed and Arbab Husain
The visas of Hyderabad resident Mohammed Asfan and his friends Zahoor Ahmed and Arbab Husain

Shireen complaint to Hyderabad’s Nampally police station reads: “They are being sent into the warzone along the border without any training and end up getting injured. People have not even been allowed to contact their families for the past month. Their families are anxious and worried as they are the sole breadwinners. There is no information about them.”

According to Shireen, Asfan travelled to Russia on November 11 and was presented with an agreement written in French. “The translator in Russia appears to be complicit with the agents in India, as they were not informed about the true nature of the job until they reached the border area, where the use of mobile phones is prohibited. One of my husband’s friends managed to call and inform me about the situation. The last time I spoke to Asfan was on December 31, and since then, he has been unreachable. We have reached out to the MEA and are awaiting their response,” she added.

Similarly, a large number of youths sent to the conflict zone have been reaching out to their families, detailing the difficulties they face in Russia after being deceived by agents, including Baba Blogs based in Mira Road. Shaikh, who has returned to Ahmedabad, confirmed the plight of three such people, identified as Sayyed Iliyas Husaini, a resident of Mumbai; Mohammed Sameer Ahmed; and Sufiyan Mohammed. In a video recorded by Husaini, he can be heard saying, “I came to Russia with four friends for a security job, and all of us were taken to the border area where conflict with Ukraine is ongoing.
One of our friends is missing and we don't know where he was taken by the Russian army.”

Like others, these youth also blame Baba Blogs and the agents who deceived them under the guise of security jobs in Russia. Each person paid R3 lakh, and now they find themselves near the border, with some being coerced into fighting against the Ukrainian army. A source from the MEA told mid-day that they are closely collaborating with their counterparts in Russia after receiving complaints. According to the source, so far, four to five people returned with the assistance of the embassy in Russia. “However, there are some who, despite being rescued from the war zone area, are not willing to return. They have opted to go elsewhere to work as helpers and engage in other tasks,” the source said. 

Rs 3L
Amount paid to secure job

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