Members of the Indian community in Russia have started mobilising relief supplies as part of a nationwide movement to support Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine and strengthen President Putin’s war effort.
Abhay Singh, an Indian-origin Deputy of the Kursk City Assembly, recently handed over a batch of medicines to the local commander of the Russian forces. So far, the Indian community has sent two consignments of medicines under the initiative of Disha: Russian-Indian Friendship Society.
Founded by Dr. Rameshwar Singh, a leading Indian-origin journalist and businessman in Moscow, the society procured the medicines from Panbio Pharma of Moscow. “This is just the beginning. We will send many more consignments of medicines and other essentials to Russian soldiers and their families as they continue to fight in Ukraine,” said Dr. Singh, speaking over phone from Moscow.
Dr. Singh said the consignments are being delivered to Kursk, near the Ukraine border, and their gesture is finding widespread appreciation. In the coming weeks, Disha’s team is planning to undertake trips to Donetsk and Luhansk, with the Russian military likely to give permission to send supplies to the local population living in the middle of the warzone.
Dr. Singh said the relief supplies are being mobilised by the Indian community with help of various commercial entities that are supportive of the war effort. Launched in 2010, Disha is supported by Indian citizens, businessmen and students, and draws from Dr. Singh’s large network of connections. Hailing from Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh, Dr. Singh studied at the Centre of Russian Studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University in 1980 and left for Moscow in 1982. He then stayed on in Russia, working as a journalist and a business consultant. In 2019, U.P. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath awarded him with the Apravasi Bharatiya Ratan Puraskar.
‘War has deepened ties’
Dr. Singh said the war has deepened Russia’s ties with India and the Indian community in Moscow and other Russian cities. The sanctions imposed on Russia have made it difficult for Moscow to export goods to the West. As a result, Russia is looking towards the East to find buyers for its goods.
“Russia has a surplus of items that India may require and India has daily necessities relevant to Russia. Both sides are fast adjusting to the new reality,” said Dr. Singh, explaining how the sanctions have pushed Russia and India to fall back on the institutional memory of the Cold War-era Indo-Soviet trade. He said Russia has an abundance of lentils, timber, iron and steel, minerals, and agricultural items that are in demand in the Indian market.
Dr. Singh said the war and the sanctions have not dampened Russia’s economy and the national spirit. “The war will go on and the people here are ready for it. Prices have not gone up here and people are leading normal lives. Nightclubs and bars are open and the major political players have united, suspending political differences,” he said.
Dr. Singh said the war is likely to continue as the Western powers are pouring weapons and mercenaries into Ukraine. He blamed the Western powers for misunderstanding Russia’s strategic requirements. “Ukraine, Belarus and Russia are three brothers and any development in one affects the others. The West did not understand this psychology. Ukraine went under American influence after the end of the Soviet Union. There were unnecessary provocations from Kyiv aimed at Moscow that should have been avoided,” Dr. Singh said.
‘War waiting to happen’
He said Ukraine discriminated against Russian speakers and derecognised the language, escalating hostilities with Moscow. “The war was waiting to happen,” said Dr. Singh, who believes that the West has imposed sanctions without careful consideration of the Russian role in the world economy.
Russia is among the top suppliers of essential items across the world and punishing the country is disrupting the global market, he said. “Russia is not Iran. The world remained unaffected despite strong sanctions on Iran, but imposing sanctions on Russia will cripple the world economy. It is already showing,” he said.
Dr. Singh said there are around 20,000 Indians in Russia and they know that Russia’s determination to continue the fight comes from the national psyche, which teaches all to defend their territory. “In the last 40 years, I have seen Russians deal with many ups and downs, including the collapse of the Soviet Union. They can fight with basic minimum support and vast parts of Ukrainian territory is already under Moscow’s control,” he said.