Russia has promised the early release of all Indian citizens from the country’s military amid its war with Ukraine, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said on Tuesday.

Dozens of Indians stranded in Russia have sought the government’s help for returning home.

On Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra confirmed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had raised with Russian President Vladimir Putin the matter of several Indians fighting alongside the Russian military.

Modi is on a two-day visit to Moscow.

“The prime minister strongly raised the issue of early discharge of Indian nationals who have been misled into the service of the Russian Army,” Kwatra said during a press briefing on Tuesday. “The Russian side promised early discharge of all Indian nationals from the service of the Russian Army.”

Kwatra said that while New Delhi is not aware of the specific number of Indians serving alongside the Russian military, the figure is anticipated to be between 35 and 50. “Out of which, we have managed to bring 10 Indian nationals back to India through very active efforts on our own and also in partnership with the Russian system,” he said.

There was “a sense of promise from the Russian side” on the concerns, the foreign secretary said. “Now the two systems will work on that and see how exactly and how expeditiously we can get them back into the country,” Kwatra added.

The external affairs ministry’s statement came against the backdrop of at least three Indians being killed amid the conflict so far.

On June 11, the ministry stated that two Indians who had been recruited by the Russian Army had been killed. One of them was identified as 29-year-old Tejpal Singh, who was a resident of Punjab’s Amritsar, according to The Hindu.

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 close to 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.

Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, triggering the deadliest 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.

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.

This was the first time that the involvement of Indians in combat roles on the Russian side had been reported.

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.

In late February, 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”.

On July 4, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that he had raised the matter with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. Jaishankar also said that it was “unacceptable that Indian citizens find themselves” being recruited by the Russian Army amid the country’s war on Ukraine.

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