Russia has recruited as many as 15,000 Nepalis to fight its war. Many returned traumatized. Some never came back
Kathmandu, Nepal CNN —
Ramchandra Khadka stood in front of a temple in the middle of Kathmandu, Nepal, praying for his fellow countrymen who are fighting for Russia in Moscow’s war against Ukraine.
As the ceremonial bells rang and the sweet smell of incense filled the air, he lit candles and offered flowers to a deity. All he wants is for his Nepali friends to survive the brutal war.
The 37-year-old recently returned to Nepal after suffering injuries on the front lines in Ukraine. He told CNN he witnessed horrific scenes and regrets his decision to join the Kremlin’s army as a foreign mercenary.
Russia’s war in Ukraine is not the first battle Khadka has fought. He was among Nepal’s Maoist rebels, who fought a bloody war with the country’s forces for 10 years from the mid-1990s. He then went to Afghanistan after being hired by a private military contractor to assist NATO forces in the country. He thought he had experienced it all in his lifetime – bloodshed, death and pain. But, some 17 years after the Maoist war ended, with no hope of a job in Nepal, he decided to fly to Russia to join the country’s military for money.
“I didn’t join the Russian military for pleasure. I didn’t have any job opportunities in Nepal. But in hindsight, it wasn’t the right decision. We didn’t realize we would be sent to the frontlines that quickly and how horrible the situation would be,” Khadka said.Ramchandra Khadka prays outside a temple in Kathmandu for his comrades fighting for Russia.
He arrived in Moscow in September last year. After only two weeks of training, he said, he was sent to the front lines in Bakhmut – a town in eastern Ukraine that saw some of the heaviest fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces – with a gun and