Indians approach Ukraine embassy for visa

More than 500 Indians from across the country, including some veterans, have volunteered to join the International Legion created to fight Russian forces in Ukraine, diplomatic sources told The Hindu.

Following the announcement last week by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to create the International Legion for the defence of Ukraine, which would function under the territorial defence squad, a separate website was launched which details steps to join the volunteer force.

Since then, several Indians, including two naval veterans, have written to the Ukrainian embassy in New Delhi seeking visas to travel and fight against the Russian troops.

The Kyiv Independent reported on Tuesday that individuals from the United Kingdom, United States, Lithuania, Sweden and India have joined the Legion.

According to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, nearly 20,000 foreign nationals from 52 countries have already volunteered to fight in Ukraine.

"The whole world today is on Ukraine's side not only in words but in deeds," he said in a TV address.

Officially, India has a neutral position in the war, calling for peace on either side.

This week, it objected to a tweet by the Ukrainian embassy in Delhi which called on Indians to join the International Legion.

The force, through the embassy's Twitter thread, said that it had received requests from hundreds of Indians to join it. The tweet was later deleted after the Indian government contacted the embassy, the Economic Times reported on Tuesday.

Online publication ThePrint spoke to two Indians who applied for visas to fight in Ukraine.

They followed the guidelines for foreigners willing to join the legion - who had to visit the Ukrainian embassy in their country or reach out to the force via an e-mail or call.

The volunteers would then be provided with information on the gear that they should possess and interviewed by the Ukrainian military attache.

A naval veteran, who applied, told ThePrint that he met the Ukrainian defence attache last week in New Delhi.

He was told that the embassy would get back, but he is yet to get a response. Another young executive at a private company said he applied to the Ukrainian embassy in Delhi through e-mail.

When ThePrint contacted the Ukrainian embassy in Delhi to find out how many Indians have applied for visas, a senior Ukrainian diplomat refused to speak on the issue. But he said that the country hasn't been issuing visas in recent days.

According to the Indian government, Indians are not allowed to fight in other countries.

In 2015, the Ministry of Home Affairs submitted an affidavit in the Delhi High Court stating: "No Indian can be allowed to go to a foreign country with an objective of taking part in the internal affairs of that country because it would adversely impact friendly relations with foreign countries and would lead to the allegation that the Indian government is promoting terrorism."

Indian domestic law clearly states such an act is punishable under Chapter VI, Section 121-130 of the Indian Penal Code (offences against the state).

Under the section, "Whoever commits depredation, or makes preparation to commit depredation, on the territories of any Power in alliance or at peace with the Government of India, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine and to forfeiture of any property used or intended to be used in committing such depredation or acquired by such depredation."

Congress MP Karti Chidambaram said that civilians from other nations should not join the war in Ukraine.

"This is highly dangerous," he said. "Imagine if a Muslim youth from Coimbatore goes to Syria and fights against Assad. Wouldn't he be called a Jihadi? Or go to Iraq to fight against the US. So how can we accept an Indian student going to Ukraine to fight?

"Ukraine is a white Christian country. How can there be a different scale of judgment for Ukraine and Middle Eastern countries?"

This isn't the first time Indians have fought abroad in a personal capacity or sought to do so.

They have fought in Lebanon and Afghanistan and joined the American military under a programme which helps them get US citizenship faster.

Indo-Asian News Service

"This is highly dangerous. Imagine if a Muslim youth from Coimbatore goes to Syria and fights against Assad. Wouldn't he be called a Jihadi? Or go to Iraq to fight against the US. So how can we accept an Indian student going to Ukraine to fight?" - Congress MP Karti Chidambaram (right)

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