Two Indians who had been recruited by the Russian Army amid the country’s war on Ukraine were recently killed, said the Ministry of External Affairs on Tuesday.

“We offer our deepest condolences to the families of the deceased,” the ministry stated. “Our Embassy in Moscow has pressed the Russian authorities, including the Ministry of Defense, for early repatriation of mortal remains.”

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

In February, media reports claimed that several Indians hired as “army security helpers” in Russia had instead been forced to fight alongside the Russian military. Nearly 100 Indians have been recruited by the Russian military over the past year, The Hindu reported on February 20.

On Tuesday, the ministry said that it had strongly taken up the matter of early release and return of all Indian nationals who are with the Russian Army to India. The Indian embassy in Moscow has communicated the demand to the Russian authorities

“India has also demanded that there be a verified stop to any further recruitment of our nationals by the Russian Army,” said the External Affairs Ministry. “Such activities would not be in consonance with our partnership.”

It further urged Indians to exercise caution while seeking employment opportunities in Russia.

On February 24, The Hindu reported that 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, on the Russia-Ukraine border.

On March 6, reports emerged that a Hyderabad man who was allegedly forced to fight alongside the Russian military was killed in Russia.

Around the same time, a group of seven Indians stranded in Russia put out two videos seeking the government’s help in returning to India.

After Russia’s war on Ukraine 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, the involvement of Indians in combat roles on the Russian side had been reported for the first time earlier this year.

The External Affairs Ministry said on February 26 that several Indians had 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.

On February 29, the ministry said that at least 20 Indian nationals are still stranded in Russia.

The Central Bureau of Investigation filed a first information report naming nineteen entities – 15 individuals and four companies – for their alleged role in the “trafficking of gullible Indian nationals to Russia and duping them for better employment and high-paying jobs”.

The agency said on May 7 that it had made four arrests in the case.

Also read: ‘Get me out’: After voice mail, Indian mother waits to hear from son duped into fighting in Ukraine