Nepal has requested that Russia return the bodies of Nepali citizens killed fighting with the Russian army in Ukraine, discourage recruiting its citizens, and send back any remaining Nepali soldiers.
In a statement cited by Reuters, Nepal’s Foreign Ministry said, “The government of Nepal has requested the Russian government to immediately return their bodies and pay compensation to their families.”
This follows a statement in August urging Nepali citizens to refrain from doing “security-related work in war-torn countries on the basis of false information.” The August statement noted that Kathmandu does not allow Nepalis to join foreign armies outside of existing arrangements under which Nepali soldiers, referred to as Gurkhas, serve in the British and Indian armies.
The Kathmandu Post this week named the six Nepalis known to have been killed serving in the Russian army as Sandip Thapaliya, Rupak Karki, Dewan Rai, Pitam Karki, Raj Kumar Rokka, and Gangaraj Moktan. It noted that two of the men – Sandip Thapaliya and Rupak Karki – were killed in mid-July and had already been buried in Russia. A foreign ministry official told the Kathmandu Post that they were in communication with the families as to their wishes and had requested Russia repatriate all of the Nepalis killed and compensate the families.
The other four had reportedly arrived in Russia in August.
The Kathmandu Post further reported, “With the help of human traffickers, many Nepalis have reached Russia on student and tourist visas and joined its army.”
In September 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree that established a simplified naturalization process for foreigners who take contracts with the Russian armed forces for at least a year and serve six months in Ukraine. In May 2023, the process was further simplified by removing a stipulation that required direct service in Ukraine.
Nepali Ambassador to Russia Milan Raj Tuladhar told The Kathmandu Post that as many as 150-200 Nepali citizens have joined the Russian army, referring to them as “mercenaries.”
“We have urged the Russian government to discourage entry and recruitment of Nepali nationals and also asked the Nepal government to take stringent measures to curb smuggling of Nepali citizens to Russia,” Tuladhar said.
Another Nepali, Bibek Khatri, was reportedly captured by Ukrainian forces in October. Nepali officials say they are working through diplomatic channels to repatriate him.
In June, Nepali journalist Birat Anupam wrote in an a article for The Diplomat that “there is nothing unique about the Russia-Ukraine war that is drawing Nepali youth to join.” He cited Nepal’s long history of fighting and “long tradition of sending soldiers to fight for foreign armies.” He also argued that Nepal’s youth “are in desperate need of options…Unemployment, low pay, and lack of vacancies in Nepal’s own military are other factors driving Nepali youths out of Nepal to enlist with foreign forces.”
Kathmandu may have asked Moscow to discourage recruiting its citizens, but if the experience of Central Asian nations is anything to judge by, they are liable to be disappointed. Like Nepalis, Central Asians have been enticed by promises of payment, highlighting these countries’ fragile economies.