By Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU (Reuters) – Nepal has stopped issuing permits to its citizens to work in Russia and Ukraine until further notice, an official said on Friday, after at least 10 Nepali soldiers were killed while serving in the Russian army.
Nepal has asked Russia not to recruit its citizens in the Russian army and to immediately send all Nepali soldiers back to the Himalayan nation and compensate the families of those killed.
The government has said that up to 200 Nepali citizens were estimated to be working in the Russian army, and foreign minister N.P. Saud told state-run RSS news agency that about 100 Nepalis are reported to be missing.
Nepali soldiers, called Gurkhas, are known for their bravery and fighting skills, and have been serving the British and Indian armies following the independence of India in 1947 under an agreement between the three countries. There is no such agreement with Russia.
The decision to temporarily stop issuing labour permits for Russia and Ukraine was aimed at minimizing the loss of life and will be in effect until further orders, said Kabiraj Upreti, a director at the department of foreign employment.
“This is for the safety of our citizens,” he said.
Nepali migrant workers must receive work permits from the government to take civilian jobs abroad, which entitle them to state support in case of emergencies or compensation for their families in case of death.
Millions of Nepali nationals are employed in civilian work mainly as labourers in industries and construction sites in South Korea, Malaysia and the Middle East.
Police in Nepal detained 10 people last month over allegations that they sent unemployed youths for illegal recruitment into the Russian army after charging them huge amounts of money for travel visas.
Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine in February 2022 and the two countries have since been engaged in a war, with Moscow calling its actions a “special military operation”.
More than 800 Nepalis were issued labour permits for non-military work in Russia in the past two years, official data showed. No figures for Ukraine were immediately available.
The Russian embassy in Kathmandu did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters.
(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Shivam Patel, William Maclean)