KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal has asked Russia to send back hundreds of Nepali nationals who were recruited to fight against Ukraine and repatriate the bodies of those who died in the conflict, Nepal’s top diplomat said Thursday.
The Russian army is estimated to have recruited more than 200 Nepali nationals to fight in Ukraine and at least 14 of them have died there, Nepal’s Foreign Minister Narayan Prakash Saud said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“We have asked Russia to immediately stop the recruitment of Nepali nationals in their army, immediately return those who are already serving in the army, repatriate the bodies of those killed, and treat and return those who were wounded in the fighting,” Saud said.
Nepal is also seeking monetary compensation from Russia for the families of those Nepali nationals who were killed in the fighting, Saud said.
Among the 14 confirmed killed Nepali nationals, Russia has said it is in possession of 12 bodies. Most Nepali people want the bodies of their deceased relatives to be cremated following religious rituals.
“We have information that five of our citizens who fought on behalf of the Russians are being held captive by the Ukraine side. We are asking the Russian side to take initiatives to get them freed,” Saud said.
Russian officials have not commented on the recruitment of foreign nationals for military service in Ukraine, but media reports have said that along with Nepal the Russian military has recruited some people from Cuba.
Russian law allows foreign nationals to enlist in its army after they sign a contract with the Defense Ministry.
In September, Cuban authorities arrested 17 people in connection with what they said was a network to recruit Cuban nationals to fight for Russia in Ukraine.
Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree that speeds up a path to Russian citizenship for foreigners who enlist in the country’s military as Moscow tries to replenish its troops in Ukraine by various methods, including the recruitment of migrants.
Ukraine is also believed to have hired some Nepalis to fight as soldiers, but Saud said he did not have more information on this.
Nepal’s government has banned its citizens from traveling to Russia or Ukraine for employment, saying many have been recruited by the Russian army to fight in the conflict in Ukraine.
Tens of thousands of Nepalis go abroad in search of work each year and are required to get a permit from the government before leaving the country for employment.
Saud met with Russian officials on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement conference in Uganda earlier this month and discussed the issues with them.
For centuries, Nepali nationals were recruited by the British army to fight as famed Gurkha soldiers and later by India when it gained independence from Britain. That arrangement was made in 1816 after signing a treaty between Nepal and Britain.