India begins evacuating citizens stranded in Ukraine

Nearly 4,000 of 20,000 Indians left Ukraine over the past few days before Russia invaded the country early
Last Updated 25 February 2022, 18:35 IST

India has started evacuating its citizens stranded in Ukraine through other East European countries with the first batch, mostly students, already being moved towards neighbouring Romania.

Air India will send a B787 aircraft from Delhi to Bucharest on Saturday to fly them home from the capital of Romania. Another Air India aircraft will fly from Mumbai to Budapest to evacuate Indians who will reach the capital of Hungary after crossing over from Ukraine.

With Ukraine closing down its airspace in the wake of the invasion by Russia, India is also making arrangements to evacuate its citizens from the war-torn East European nation through neighbouring Hungary and Poland.

Nearly 4,000 of 20,000 Indians left Ukraine over the past few days before Russia invaded the country early on Thursday. But 16,000 – mostly students – are still stranded in the country where President Vladimir Putin’s forces are advancing towards the capital city Kyiv.

“Discussed predicament of Indian nationals, including students. Appreciate his support for their safe return,” External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar tweeted after having a discussion with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Jaishankar also called up Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to seek Moscow’s support to India's endeavour to evacuate its citizens from Ukraine. He also spoke to his counterparts in Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovak Republic and requested them to facilitate the transit of the citizens of India when they would cross over from Ukraine.

The officials of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) set up camp offices in the border towns of Ukraine. They are helping Indians reaching the border cities and will facilitate their departure from Ukraine through adjoining border crossings, sources in New Delhi said on Friday. India’s diplomatic missions in Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovak Republic also deputed officials on the respective border crossings with Ukraine.

The first batch of Indian students left Chernivtsi for Porubne-Siret border crossing between Ukraine and Romania on Friday. “Today afternoon more than 470 students will exit Ukraine and enter Romania through the Porubne-Siret Border,” the Embassy of India in Kyiv posted on Twitter. “We are moving Indians located at the border to neighbouring countries for onward evacuation. Efforts are underway to relocate Indians coming from the hinterland,” it added.

The embassy advised the students and others to prominently display the national flag of India on the vehicles they would be taking to travel from different locations of Ukraine towards border crossings with Hungary, Romania and Poland.

A large number of Indians living across Ukraine continued to be in the lurch. “I am in Sumy City. There is no transportation available to reach (the) western border and till now no response from (the) embassy. Please do something,” Saransh, who lives in north-eastern Ukraine, posted on Twitter.

“We KNMU (Kharkiv National Medical University) students are stuck here in #Ukraine (#Kharkiv metro stations & bunker. We're waiting here for past 2 (two) days in this crisis without any knowledge from Indian embassy,” another Indian student posted on Twitter using the handle @PeaceBrw.

A large number of Indians and the citizens of other foreign countries as well as citizens in Ukraine took shelter in underground metro stations to save themselves from aerial attacks by Russia.

“Sir any evacuation plans for Kharkhiv? And by road evacuation as per sources from locals is not smooth. Vehicles are stuck in between and heavily crowded roads. Kindly ensure safe evacuation,” tweeted Heena Samani.

The Centre on Friday decided to bear all expenses for evacuation of Indians from Ukraine, including for chartering aircraft from Air India and other airlines.

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(Published 25 February 2022, 11:52 IST)

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