Kathmandu has urged Moscow to halt the use of Nepali mercenaries.
Nepal has arrested a gang that it accuses of smuggling people to be forced to join the Russian military campaign in Ukraine.
The 10 detainees are accused of extorting large sums of money from unemployed youths, with the promise of a travel visa, an official said on Wednesday. However, the customers were then coerced into illegal recruitment into the Russian army.
Earlier this week, the government in Kathmandu urged Moscow to stop the use of Nepali mercenaries and send any men serving back home. That move followed the death of six Nepali citizens on the front line in Ukraine, with another captured by Kyiv’s forces.
Kathmandu district police chief Bhupendra Khatri said the 10 suspects were arrested over the past few days following tip-offs.
“We are discussing with the government lawyers about the case and will produce them to the court,” Khatri told Reuters news agency. He did not say when they would appear in court.
Khatri said the detainees illegally charged each person up to $9,000 and sent them to Russia on “visit [tourist] visas”, mainly through the United Arab Emirates. They were then recruited into the Russian army.
“It is a case of human smuggling … organised crime,” Khatri added.
The detainees could not be immediately reached for comment.
Situated between China and India, Nepal has requested compensation from Russia, currently involved in a prolonged war since its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, for the families of Nepali citizens who lost their lives.
Nepali soldiers, renowned for their courage and combat prowess, known as Gurkhas, have served in the British and Indian armies since India gained independence in 1947 through a trilateral agreement. However, there is no such agreement with Russia.
A large number of Nepalis seek employment abroad to make a living, and remittances play an important role in Nepal’s economy. These remittances accounted for nearly a quarter of the gross domestic product (GDP) last year, ranking as the ninth-highest globally, according to the World Bank.
Russia has sought various sources for soldiers to post to Ukraine as its invasion extends. A mobilisation drive launched last year has added more than 300,000 soldiers to the cause, while the Wagner mercenary group recruited thousands of convicts.
Last week, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree boosting the size of the Russian army by 15 percent, although the Kremlin said it would not seek to fill the quota with a draft by offering generous benefits to recruits.