Travel agents across the country offered Indians admissions in “dubious private universities”, fee discounts and visa extensions to dupe them into going to Russia, the Central Bureau of Investigation alleged.

The Indian citizens were then forced to fight in Russia’s war on Ukraine, the CBI said.

The agency made the allegations in a first information report that it filed on March 6. The case was filed in the backdrop of two Indians – one from Gujarat and one from Telangana – having been killed on the frontlines of the war.

Nineteen entities – 15 individuals and four companies – have been named in the case. The Central Bureau of Investigation alleged that the accused persons were engaged in the “trafficking of gullible Indian nationals to Russia and duping them for better employment and high-paying jobs”.

The agency said that when the Indian citizens would arrive in Russia, agents in the country would take away their passports. “They were being trained in combat roles and provided with Russian army uniform and batches,” the first information report stated. “Thereafter, these Indian nationals are/were being deployed at front bases in Russia-Ukraine war zone against their wishes and put their lives in grave danger.”

On March 7, the Central Bureau of Investigation searched 13 locations in Delhi, Thiruvananthapuram, Mumbai, Ambala, Chandigarh, Madurai and Chennai in connection with the case. It seized over Rs 50 lakh in cash, allegedly incriminating documents, laptops and mobile phones.

The Ministry of External Affairs said on Friday that the Union government has taken up the matter strongly with Russia and sought that the Indians nationals forced to fight in the war be discharged early.

“We once again appeal to Indian nationals to not be swayed by offers made by agents for support jobs with the Russian Army,” the ministry’s spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said. “This is fraught with danger and risk to life. We remain committed to the early release of our nationals serving as support staff with the Russian Army and their eventual return home.”