The Nepali police have detained 10 people suspected of charging local youths exorbitant rates for travel visas to Russia, and then sending them to join the Russian military, Reuters reported on Dec. 6, citing a Nepali official.
Nepal urged on Dec. 5 the Russian government to stop recruiting Nepalese citizens into its army, amid growing reports of Nepalese mercenaries being killed while fighting in Ukraine, the Kathmandu Post reported.
The suspects charged unemployed youths up to $9,000 to travel on tourist visas to Russia through the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and "then sent them for illegal recruitment into the Russian army," Kathmandu District Police chief Bhupendra Khatri told Reuters.
Nepal has so far confirmed the deaths of at least six Nepali nationals who were serving in the Russian army in Ukraine, the Kathmandu Post earlier reported.
The government lacks accurate data on how many of its citizens are currently fighting for Russia, but Milan Raj Tuladhar, the Nepalese ambassador to Moscow, told the Kathmandu Post that up to 200 have served in the Russian army.
"We have urged the Russian government to discourage entry and recruitment of Nepali nationals," Tuladhar said.
Tuladhar has also asked the Nepal government "to take stringent measures to curb smuggling of Nepali citizens to Russia."
Kathmandu District Police chief Bhupendra Khatri told Reuters that the detentions were part of a "case of human smuggling" and "organized crime."
Khatri said that "we are discussing with the government lawyers about the case and will produce them to the court," according to Reuters.
The case mirrors that of Cuba, which in September uncovered a human trafficking ring aimed at recruiting people to fight for Russia in Ukraine.
The U.K.'s Defense Ministry reported in September that Russia was trying to recruit foreigners and migrant workers to avoid announcing another mobilization drive before the presidential elections, which are to be held in 2024.