The Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday said that at least 20 Indian nationals are still stranded in Russia amid the country’s war on Ukraine.

Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal told media persons that the Indian government was in touch with the relevant Russian authorities and was seeking their early discharge.

Jaiswal said that the ministry had already advised Indian nationals not to venture into the conflict.

The ministry’s statement came amid reports that several Indians, who were hired as “army security helpers” in Russia, have instead been allegedly forced to fight alongside the Russian military.

On Saturday, The Hindu reported that Hemil Ashvinbhai Mangukiya, a 23-year-old man from Gujarat, who was hired as an “army security helper” in Russia, was allegedly killed in a Ukrainian air strike in Donetsk, close to the Russia-Ukraine border.

An agent had sent an email to the Indian embassy in Moscow on February 2 on behalf of Mangukiya’s father, stating that his son was stuck in the war zone, according to the newspaper. The agent had sought Mangukiya’s safe return to India.

Several other workers have also approached the Indian diplomatic mission asking to be repatriated, reports suggest.

Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, triggering the most deadly conflict in Europe since World War II.

After the war broke out, at least 500 Indians, including some veterans, had reportedly submitted applications to volunteer to join the International Legion created to fight Russian forces in Ukraine. However, this was the first time that the involvement of Indians in combat roles on the Russian side had been reported.

Nearly 100 Indians have been recruited by the Russian military over the past year, The Hindu reported on February 20.

On Monday, the external affairs ministry said that several Indians have already been discharged from the Russian Army as a result of the government having taken up with Moscow the cases of Indian nationals seeking their release.

It said that the Indian government is actively pursuing with Moscow all the “relevant cases of Indian nationals for an early discharge from the Russian Army”.

“Each and every such case brought to the attention of the Indian embassy in Moscow has been strongly taken up with the Russian authorities and those brought to the attention of the ministry have been taken up with the Russian embassy in New Delhi,” the ministry said in a statement on Monday.

On February 22, the ministry urged Indians to exercise caution and “stay away from [the Russia-Ukraine] conflict”.