Connect with us

Published

on

It’s a war they didn’t sign up for. 

Several Indian men allege they have been forced into fighting for the Russian military in Ukraine.

Thousands of miles away in their village of Mator in Haryana, their families spoke to Sky News about their loved ones caught up in a war zone.

Sky News was shown multiple Russian Ministry of Defence contracts that state the men must perform military duty and service to defend the Russian Federation.

Russian Ministry of Defence contracts From Neville Lazarus
Russian Ministry of Defence contracts From Neville Lazarus
Image:
The Russian Ministry of Defence contracts

Russian Ministry of Defence contracts From Neville Lazarus

It carries the sign of a commander and the stamp of the military unit.

The men and their families claim they were coerced into signing these contracts.

Seeking a job in Russia, the men travelled on tourist visas.

More on India

They were then arrested by Russian authorities for violating visa laws and told to either serve for a year in the Russian military or face 10 years in prison.

Their phones and passports were confiscated and were taken to a military camp where they were made to sign a contract in Russian.

Families insist the men went for non-combatant jobs. With less than 15 days of training, they were thrust into battle.

Ajay, the elder brother of 20-year-old Ravi who is fighting on the frontline told Sky News: “He’s been duped, he was supposed to be a helper and they forced him into the war in Ukraine, this is cheating.

“He was made to sign a contract in Russian language which he does not understand, they said either go to jail for 10 years or fight in the war. They had no choice.”

Ravi on the frontline
Image:
Ravi on the frontline

Sky News put these allegations to the Russian embassy in Delhi but has received no response yet.

It is sombre at Baagh Singh’s home – his 20-year-old son Sahil is in hospital somewhere on the frontline.

“We are in a bad condition, we have all become sick and depressed thinking about him,” he said.

His elder brother Aman showed Sky News a copy of the medical report.

“The Army gave him a job of a helper but he didn’t know he will be sent to war. He is injured by a bomb dropped by a drone.

“As soon as he gets better, he will be sent back to the frontline. After that, there is no chance of him coming back.”

Sahil Singh
Image:
Sahil Singh

For Jaiveer, it is a tormenting wait for a call from his younger brother Baldev, who is on the frontlines in Luhansk.

“We have had to keep this a secret from his wife, it will be really bad for her. It’s only sadness at home. Not only us but the whole village is mourning.”

“Each time we speak he begs us to bring him back. It’s just too dangerous,” said Vikram, the elder brother of Rajendra who fighting alongside Baldev.

Baldev and Rajender
Image:
Baldev and Rajender

Many who sought these opportunities are from small cities and towns, where unemployment, shrinking incomes and a rural economy that is in distress have forced many to seek better prospects abroad.

Families have sold land, taken loans and borrowed money to finance these trips.

But the men have ended up deceived by agents and coerced to fight in a foreign land.

There are no exact numbers of how many Indians are stuck, but it could be dozens.

Follow Sky News on WhatsApp
Follow Sky News on WhatsApp

Keep up with all the latest news from the UK and around the world by following Sky News

Tap here

Briefing reporters, Randhir Jaiswal, spokesperson of the Indian foreign ministry, said: “We are pressing very hard with the Russian authorities for early discharge of our people who are stuck there.

“We’ve also told people not to venture into the war zone or get caught into situations which are difficult. We are in regular touch with Russian authorities both here in New Delhi and also in Moscow.”

Body bags have begun to return home. Last month Hemil Mangukiya from Surat and Mohammad Asfan from Hyderabad were killed on the frontline.

Ajay plays a 90-second video of his brother Ravi who is inside a tank amid thunderous explosions.

Ravi
Image:
Ravi

“There is no chance to survive this bombing. Hear the bombs exploding around me. We are stuck in the middle of this, there is no escape as drones are dropping bombs from above. Its not possible to get out,” he said in the recording.

It has been three weeks since Ajay has heard from him.

In a video message sent to Sky News from Zaporizhzhia Oblast, 19-year-old Harsh Kumar said: “We are on the frontline in Ukraine, stuck in the Russian Army.

“We have just finished a 10-day duty on the frontline and it is very dangerous. You may not even find our bodies. After two days we will be sent back. Please take us out from here. We again appeal to the Indian government to bring us out.”

Harsh Kumar appeal sent to Sky News
Image:
Harsh Kumar’s message sent to Sky News

Back home in Karnal, his mother is ill with worry. His father Suresh said: “You cannot understand how scared we are, and what goes through our minds. Each morning and night we keep praying to God for his return.”

The families say the men have not been paid, but that is the last thing on their minds.

All they want is for them to return, and with each passing day the wait becomes more agonising.

Continue Reading

World

Baby saved from womb of mother killed in Israeli strike

Published

on

By

Baby saved from womb of mother killed in Israeli strike

Palestinians in Rafah are reeling from a series of devastating Israeli airstrikes that have killed 22 people – including 18 children.

The last 48 hours, horrific even by Gaza’s standards, are an indicator of what may follow in any Israeli Rafah offensive.

Doctors told the Sky News team in Gaza how they saved the life of an unborn baby even as her mother was dying from head injuries.

Follow latest: Netanyahu vows to ‘increase pressure on Hamas in coming days’

“We tried to rescue the patient,” Dr Ahmad Fawzi said.

“We realised that she was pregnant.

“We had to do an emergency caesarean to save the baby.

“Thanks to God, we managed to save the baby.”

A medic holds a Palestinian newborn girl after she was pulled alive from the womb of her mother Sabreen Al-Sheikh (Al-Sakani), who was killed in an Israeli strike, along with her husband Shokri and her daughter Malak, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, at a hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, in this still image taken from a video recorded April 20, 2024. Reuters TV via REUTERS
Image:
The Palestinian baby girl was saved from the womb of her mother. Pic: Reuters

The little girl lies in an incubator.

She has no name but there is tape attached to her hand with writing that says: “The baby of the martyr Sabreen al Sakani”.

The baby’s mother Sabreen, her father Shoukri, and three-year-old sister Malak all died in the Israeli airstrike.

Her uncle says he will care for her now.

The Palestinian baby girl was saved from the womb of her mother. Pic: Reuters
Image:
The Palestinian baby girl was saved from the womb of her mother. Pic: Reuters

Also in Rafah, another airstrike killed 17 children and two women all from the same extended family, say Palestinians.

There were heartbreaking scenes at the hospital as relatives mourned the children being placed in body bags.

A relative, Umm Kareem, told how the children were killed as they slept in their beds, saying: “These children were sleeping. What did they do? What was their fault?

“Pregnant women at home, sleeping children, the husband’s aunt is 80 years old.

“What did this woman do? Did she fire missiles? We complain about our concerns to God.”

The strikes, all in Rafah, have provoked unusually sharp criticism of Israel by the UK government.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Families mourn as airstrike kills children

Lord Ahmad, foreign minister for the Middle East, tweeted that he was “appalled by the Israeli strike, on a residential apartment in the densely populated Rafah in Gaza, which resulted in more children being killed”.

“We must stop this fighting immediately and bring an end to this conflict,” he added.

But there is no end in sight. Quite the opposite.

Read more:
Trail of destruction in Lebanon’s ‘ghost towns’
Situation in northern Israel ‘untenable’
Are Israel and Lebanon heading for war?

In an address to the nation ahead of Passover, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used language from the Bible to hint at what might be coming for Rafah.

The enemy, he said, is “hardening its heart and refusing to let our people go”.

“Therefore, we will strike it with additional painful blows – and this will happen soon,” he added.

Israel’s government says it must take the fight to Hamas in Rafah to bring back its hostages and destroy the enemy, but far more civilians are being killed than Hamas fighters in this war.

Rafah is the most densely-populated area of Gaza. And when the offensive begins here, many more will die.

Continue Reading

World

Trail of destruction in Lebanon’s ‘ghost towns’ – as daily explosions fuel fears of escalating war

Published

on

By

Trail of destruction in Lebanon's 'ghost towns' - as daily explosions fuel fears of escalating war

The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon has told Sky News the dangers in the region have not gone away and called for calm, wisdom and de-escalation as a matter of urgency.

Joanna Wronecka spoke from her office in Beirut about her worries and appealed for restraint from all those involved.

“I’m very concerned,” she said. “Because we need just a small miscalculation and the situation can escalate even more.”

She was referring to the spike in cross-border firing between the Israeli military and the Lebanese Hezbollah fighters who’ve been trading attacks with growing intensity since 7 October.

UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka
Image:
UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka

It’s resulted in around 100,000 Lebanese fleeing their homes along the border and around 80,000 being forced to leave their communities on the Israeli side.

We saw a trail of destruction as we joined a UN peacekeepers patrol in south Lebanon.

UNIFIL peacekeepers
Image:
UN peacekeepers on patrol in south Lebanon.


Village after village, town after town have been left like ghost towns, with those homes still standing now emptied of residents. We saw multiple houses and buildings flattened, craters in roads and acres of farmland left burned and unusable.

In Alma Shaab town, a few hardy folk have opted to stay despite the dangers.

“It’s dangerous to stay here,” Nader Eid said. “But we have to. We have to survive and we have to keep our home safe… and to keep Alma safe.”

Read more:
Middle East violence ‘will not stop until Gaza war ends’
Situation in northern Israel ‘untenable’
Are Israel and Lebanon heading for war?

Exchange of fire is regular and often

Walking past crushed buildings which were once people’s homes, Lieutenant Colonel Bruno Vio from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) says the exchange of fire and attacks is regular and often.

“For sure, it’s daily,” he says. “Every day we can count some different kind of activity and in different numbers.”

The UN mission in the country, only weeks ago, marked its 46th anniversary but used it to call for all involved to lay down their weapons and talk peace.

Lieutenant Colonel Bruno Vio
Image:
Lieutenant Colonel Bruno Vio

Before the Hamas attack inside Israel on 7 October, the border area was judged to have enjoyed a relative period of calm and stability but that all changed with the events across the border.

Since then Hezbollah fighters and Israeli troops have been exchanging more and more serious fire, violating the terms of an earlier agreement contained in the UN Resolution 1701.

That agreement preserved what’s known as the Blue Line – an official demarcation area on disputed territory between Lebanon and Israel. All sides agreed this would be a demilitarised zone with no militia or military engagement in this area.

But Israeli forces continue to strike inside Lebanon at locations they say are being used by Hezbollah to mount attacks inside Israel.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

IDF footage of alleged strikes on Hezbollah

Hezbollah argues they are mounting strikes in support of the Palestinians under Israeli bombardment in Gaza, as well as distracting IDF troops on a separate additional front.

There are many suspicions among the Lebanese that the Israeli attacks are an attempt to snatch territory from them.

Whatever the motivations, the daily explosions have fuelled concerns across the region over the potential for the war to escalate hugely, drawing in multiple militias in multiple countries.

‘Lebanon is in a very sensitive place’

Ms Wronecka says: “One mistake, one miscalculation can make a difference and put this region in a completely new situation. And taking Lebanon’s geopolitical position into account, Lebanon is in a very sensitive place.

“So we deploy every day, every moment to speak about responsibility and restraint.”

Lebanon is home to around 250,000 Palestinian refugees, among them an 85-year-old man called Abu Jamal.

He fled to safety in Lebanon more than seven decades ago during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

The hugely traumatic event became known as the Nakba (catastrophe in Arabic) and saw more than half the Palestinian population displaced and dispossessed with many never returning to their homes.

Abu Jamal with his key
Image:
Abu Jamal

‘I pray to see my country… before I die’

Mr Jamal sees many parallels between what’s happening now in Gaza and what he fears may happen in parts of Lebanon too.

He was eight when he left his family home – a day he remembers with searing clarity.

He has a large key which he says was the key to his family’s front door, now part of Israel. He said: “My dad told me that it would be one or two months and we’d go back home – and we’ve been here in Lebanon for 76 years.

“This is the key to our home. I’m still hanging it in my bedroom. I pray to God we return back to our country Palestine. I pray I see my country and our land before I die.”

Reporting with cameraman Jake Britton, specialist producer Chris Cunningham and Lebanon producer Jihad Jineid.

Continue Reading

World

‘Ukraine will not be the second Afghanistan,’ says Zelenskyy after US aid package approval

Published

on

By

'Ukraine will not be the second Afghanistan,' says Zelenskyy after US aid package approval

Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the crucial US aid package for Ukraine sends “sends a powerful signal” that his country “will not be the second Afghanistan”.

After months of deadlock, Democrats and Republicans joined together in the US House of Representatives to approve a package – worth $60.8bn (£49bn) – to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s invasion.

Speaking on NBC News show Meet The Press, Mr Zelenskyy said the aid is “a show of leadership from the United States”.

“This aid will strengthen Ukraine and send the Kremlin a powerful signal that it will not be the second Afghanistan,” he said.

“The US will stay with Ukraine, they will protect Ukrainians and democracy.

“Half a year we have been waiting. Now we have reached this important moment and this positive vote.”

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Moment US approved $60.8bn Ukraine aid

The aid package will now go to the US Senate, where it is expected to be passed on Tuesday.

During the months of delays, some Republicans were critical of the aid proposal and argued America should be focussing on its own southern border instead of European ones.

Asked about the opposition, Mr Zelenskyy said: “The Americans are not funding the war. They, first and foremost, protect freedom and democracy all over Europe.

“Ukraine is fighting, and sending it sons and daughters to the front line. It reduces the price for the whole Europe, NATO and the US.

“The US army does not have to fight to protect NATO countries – Ukrainians are doing that. It’s only the ammo that [aid] is providing.

Read more from Sky News:
What the aid package means for Ukraine
Man arrested over ‘plot to assassinate Zelenskyy’

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

‘Grateful’ Zelenskyy reacts to US aid

‘We will have a chance for victory’

Addressing how the money will be used, Mr Zelenskyy said he hopes to get “tangible assistance to soldiers on the frontline as soon as possible”.

“We will have a chance for victory if Ukraine really gets the weapons system which we need so much,” he said. “This support will really strengthen the armed forces.”

Ukraine’s priorities are long-range artillery and air defences, Mr Zelenskyy added.

The US House’s decision to approve the aid was praised by UK Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron, who called the funding “a vital step forward”.

“If Putin ever doubted the West’s resolve to back Ukraine, this shows our collective will is undimmed,” he wrote on X.

“With support, Ukraine can and will win.”

Continue Reading

Trending