Hundreds of young Nepalese are taking part in Russia’s war with Ukraine, writes the New York Times. Some of them join the Russian army tempted by the earnings, others are on the side of Ukraine. This makes it possible for Nepalis to kill each other in a distant war.
– I joined the Russian army! – Sandip Thapaliya exclaimed on the phone when he called from Moscow to inform his sister Shanta about the news. IN Nepal he couldn’t find a good job and decided that a career in the Russian army was the best option for him. He was soon sent to the front.
Shanta couldn’t believe it. – Are you crazy? Have you been bitten by a mad dog? – she shouted at her brother. – Don’t you know that thousands of people are dying there? To them you are like an insect, she added.
Sandip urged her not to worry because he had only enlisted as a military medic. He was to speak regularly. He did this for some time: he gave details of the contract that he was earning PLN 75,000. rubles a month (approx. 750 US dollars), he sent photos of himself in camouflage and even while marching at a military base. Less than a month later, he recorded a short voicemail: – They’re taking us to the jungle. I’ll call you when I get back.
He didn’t speak again after that.
Sandip’s story, according to “NYT”, is just an example of how desperation for work in a poor country with high unemployment pushes hundreds of Nepalis to take part in the Russian-Ukrainian war.
Conversations with Nepali officials, documents provided to the newspaper and interviews with relatives show that most are fighting on the side of Russia, but a smaller group has also joined the International Legion as part of the Ukrainian army. – If this situation continues, Nepalis will kill each other in the war against Russia Ukraine. I feel guilty having this in front of me. This is a crime, said Rajendra Bajgain, a member of the ruling coalition in the Nepalese parliament.
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in Asia
Nepal – with a growing population and increasing unemployment – is one of the poorest countries in Asia. It also has a long tradition of sending young people to wars that are not its own. Over 200 years ago, the British used the Nepalese to suppress rebellions and gain control over Indiaand later in both world wars and in Iraq and Afghanistan – reminds “NYT”.
– Out of 500,000 young people entering the Nepali labor market every year, only 80,000-100,000 find employment. Where can the rest go? said retired Nepali General Binoj Basnyat, who currently works at Rangsit University Thailand.
Currently, Nepal remains neutral and has not joined Western sanctions against Russia, but unlike India, it has condemned the Russian invasion. Nepali officials are trying to discourage young people from participating in the war, but the government – according to Bajgain – does not have the courage to demand that Moscow not recruit them.
“I felt like my whole world was falling apart”
Sandip was sent to Bakhmut in June. His sister Shanta, who works as a pharmacist in Kathmandu, was so worried that she didn’t want to sleep to avoid nightmares. When he stopped talking, she tried to contact relatives, friends, Nepalis working in Russia, and diplomats. She obsessively read the news from Russian-occupied Bakhmut, where many soldiers fighting in the Russian army died.
Finally, a Russian official spoke to one of the relatives. “Your brother was buried on July 14 at 12.50 at a cemetery (…) in Russia. I hope I helped you. My condolences,” he wrote.
“I felt like my whole world was falling apart,” Shanta said. Later, Nepali officials also confirmed her brother’s death. Now the woman wants to go to Russia to collect her brother’s remains – her family is Hindu and believes that the soul can only be released from the body after cremation – but Nepali officials in Moscow told her that the Russian army would not agree to this.
Shanta is determined to achieve her goal, which – as she says – she couldn’t even imagine a year ago: to bring back at least a fragment of the bones of the brother she loved so much, so that his soul could move on – emphasizes “NYT”.
Main photo source: GEORGE IVANCHENKO/EPA/PAP