CBI probes misuse of student visas after Indians forced to fight in Russian war zone

Students were lured with free discounted visa extensions and easy fee structure

Representational image | Reuters Representational image | Reuters

Indian students aspiring to study abroad makes them one of the biggest chunks in several foreign universities, but revelations about possible misuse of student visas to dupe youngsters into entering the Russia-Ukraine war zone is ringing alarm bells.

After a few cases wherein Indian nationals were forced to fight in Russia’s war in Ukraine came to light, the government has decided to probe the human trafficking network spread across several states that was luring gullible youth to travel to Russia.

The Central Bureau of Investigation, which registered an FIR on March 6, conducted searches at 10 locations in seven cities. This points to startling evidence of not just illegal job rackets but also student visas where many youngsters on a visa to study in Russia never joined the university but were used by private contractors to illegally enlist their services and enter the war zone.

These students were offered free discounted visa extensions and an easy fee structure but later they were left at the mercy of visa agents who were running the illegal racket in both the countries. The CBI has noted that when these Indians reached Russia, their passports were snatched by the agents. Some of these students are learnt to have been sent for training in combat roles and provided military fatigues and put into batches for entering the war zone, endangering their lives. The outcome was worse. Investigators have found that some human trafficking victims were grievously injured in the war zone.

The CBI FIR names 19 accused companies and persons based in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Punjab, Rajasthan and Kerala as well as Indian accused based in Russia, hailing from Kerala, for being involved in trafficking of gullible youngsters by luring them with better employment and high paying jobs. For example, a visa consultancy firm in Delhi is learnt to have sent 180 people to Russia, said sources, as the central agency is joining pieces of evidence before cracking down on the accused and making arrests.

The accused persons themselves and through their agents trafficked Indian nationals to Russia on the pretext of getting jobs related to Russian Army, security guards and helpers, says the CBI in its FIR. They were offered better life, jobs and education and huge amount of money was charged from these persons illegally, it added.

The accused have been charged with criminal conspiracy, cheating and human trafficking for the purpose of exploitation punishable with more than five years jail term.

Sources said the CBI is verifying how many are still in the war zone. Initial investigations revealed that some of them were sent on student visas and sleuths are now trying to find out how many of them actually got enrolled in universities or never took admission. The suspicion is that once they reached Russia, many of them never joined the university but took up jobs illegally. The illegal network of touts appears to be running both in India and Russia, an official said, and efforts are on to ascertain whether they were illegally enlisted as fighters by private contractors.

What is worrisome is that these agents or human traffickers have been duping Indian students by offering admission in dubious private varsities in Russia instead of government-run or credible universities, said sources.


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