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Decode

How Indian Job Seekers Were Lured To Fight In Russia Through A YouTube Channel

Decode spoke to Faizal Khan who operates the YouTube channel 'Baba Vlogs' and is being accused of running the “scam”.

By - Hera Rizwan | 26 Feb 2024 7:31 AM GMT

Mohammed Sufiyan, 22, saw an opportunity to break free from the routine of his sales job in Narayanpet district, Telangana after watching a compelling YouTube video offering a lucrative job opportunity in Russia. His family hasn't spoken to him in 20 days now. 

Coming from a family with low income, Sufiyan has a physically challenged mother, a father employed as a driver, and a brother. In an effort to improve their financial circumstances, he decided to take a chance.

Intrigued, he enrolled for the job, agreeing to the terms that involved a substantial payment of 3 lakhs and maintaining secrecy until he received the tickets to Russia through an agent in Dubai.

With the assistance of an agent named Faizal Khan, also known as Baba who ran the YouTube channel, Sufiyan arrived in Russia, only to find himself trapped in the country being forced to fight in the ongoing war with Ukraine. The family members of Sufiyan and others who were “deceitfully” enlisted to serve on the frontlines with the Russian army are pointing fingers at the YouTuber, holding him responsible for this predicament.

In a tragic turn of events, a 23-year-old man from Gujarat who was hired for the said job by the Russian Army has been killed in a Ukrainian air strike on February 21 in the Donetsk region on the Russia-Ukraine border.

According to reports, there have been around 100 Indians recruited by the Russian Army at its Moscow recruitment centre, over the past one year. Many of their families claim that it was the YouTube channel that enamoured them with the opportunities in Russia, which led them to travel to the warzone.

But who is Faizal Khan?

“You are doing such a great job baba… Hats off to you”

“I got a call from the Dubai Team. InshaAllah looking forward to get a good job soon”

“I am a computer engineer who will complete my engineering in 2021. Is 6 months experience enough to get a job in a foreign IT firm ?”

Posted two years ago on Khan’s YouTube channel, 'Baba Vlogs', these are some of the comments on a video titled, “They Got Desired Job In 10 Days”. The video has garnered over 32,000 views and hundreds of comments till now.

Khan is a Mumbai native based in Dubai. With a subscriber count exceeding 3 lakhs, his channel primarily features concise vlogs where Khan shares updates on job opportunities spanning countries such as Russia, Poland, Germany, New Zealand, Finland and many more.

Beyond sharing blue-collar job updates, Khan asserts his commitment to assisting individuals with tourist visas, student visas, and work permits, on the back of some “setting” which he claims to have in these foreign countries. All these come for a "nominal service charge" payable only upon getting a visa.

In tandem with the YouTube channel, Khan's recruitment agency website, with the same name, outlines additional services, encompassing resume makeovers, travel and hostel bookings, and personalised guidance.

The agency website proudly touts a track record of placing over 5,000 candidates, managing active applications from more than 4,000 candidates, and maintaining a robust database of 1,000 resumes. Headquartered in Dubai, the agency is co-operated by Khan alongside colleagues Poja and Sufiyan.

Khan, who started the YouTube channel in 2016, moved to Dubai from India in 2009, initially securing a position as a sales executive at a medical equipment company. Subsequently, in 2014, he transitioned to a role as a retail staff member in a luxury watch shop.

Despite having completed only the 6th grade, Khan attributes his success in Dubai to the belief that "talent and confidence precede education". He candidly shared in one vlog that practical skills and confidence weighs more than actual experience, emphasising his own story of landing a job after watching basic tutorial videos on YouTube to crack the interview.

Having been in the recruiting business for six years, his latest stint with the Russian agents has managed to stir up a situation leaving lives of several in peril.

“We discovered the truth via vlogs"

Speaking to Decode, Salman, Sufiyan's brother, revealed that Sufiyan embarked on his journey to Russia on December 17, 2023, accompanied by three other individuals. The job offered was that of an 'army security helper,' involving tasks such as cooking and digging in the camps.“However, since the past 20 days I have had no contact with him,” he said.

During the initial contact, Sufiyan shared details with his family about the arms and grenade training they were undergoing in the camp, along with wearing military attire. All this made him and his family members skeptical about the nature of the job.

Subsequently, Sufiyan signed a contract written in Russian, indicating the possibility of being deployed to the frontline, if necessary.

As communication with Sufiyan ceased, Salman recounted their anxious moments. “We got to know about the nitty-gritty of the situation through the vlogs of another YouTuber called Raja Pathan,” he said.

Raja Pathan, currently based in Russia, hails from Chandigarh and was also a part of the Russian army. In his vlogs, he is seen cautioning Indians against joining the Russian army while enumerating his experience.

In one of his videos, he says, “It is natural for individuals to be drawn to join the army due to the allure of lucrative pay and the prospect of obtaining Russian citizenship. However, the authorities commit to granting citizenship only upon completing six months of service, with no certainty of one's survival during that period.”

Pathan has also been seen dissing Khan in many of his vlogs, asserting that he was well aware of the nature of the commitments he was enlisting the boys for.

The family members have sought the assistance of AIMIM Member of Parliament Asaduddin Owaisi, who wrote to the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and the Indian Embassy in Moscow on January 25. Owaisi has urged the government to intervene and facilitate the return of these individuals.

“I, too, have been deceived”- Faizal Khan

Decode also spoke to the proprietor of Baba Vlogs, who is at the epicentre of the controversy. While the individuals currently stranded in Russia have levied accusations against him, Khan told Decode that he, too, fell victim to the deceitful promises of agents operating in Russia.

He explained, “I feel responsible for the fact that innocent people have been trapped in a war zone. Something this unprecedented has never occurred in my career before.”

Khan also added, “I have told the families to file complaints, even if they are directed against me. I want the media to focus on this issue so that the government can help bring these Indian citizens back safely through the embassy.”

The YouTuber who is also the recruiting agent has been in contact with the family members of the entrapped individuals for the past two months now. Speaking of their whereabouts, he said, “We had sent 16 boys for this job, with 10 currently in a secure area, 2 successfully escaping and finding alternative employment in Russia, and 3 located near the border.”

Recently, one individual managed to break free from the situation and is currently residing with Khan’s agents in Russia. "He is too traumatised to discuss any details," mentioned Khan.

Talking about the allegations of scam, Khan responded, “If I was guilty, I would have ran away, switched off my mobile and pulled down all my videos from YouTube. But I am answering all the questions of the media and of the families, while trying my best to get the entrapped individuals out of the war zone.”

Khan stressed that this was not the commitment his agency had signed up for. “I knew that the boys would be given preliminary training just for emergencies, and had conveyed the same to them. The fact that they will be sent off to the border never occurred to me as how can one become a soldier with such limited training!”