Indian students in Ukraine make tearful pleas to govt for safe return

As Ukraine closed its airspace in the wake of the invasion by Russia, all commercial flights from Kyiv and other places in the country were cancelled
Last Updated 24 February 2022, 17:52 IST

“Save us as soon as possible,” Sayan Chowdhury tweeted, after posting a video that showed thick black smoke wafting out of a place that was just hit by missiles Russia fired at Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine early on Thursday.

“We have strong hope that (Government of) India will rescue (us),” added Chowdhury, who hails from Kolkata, but now studies in a medical college in the East European nation.

“We don't know what to do. This place is near to my city. We are all scared,” tweeted Deepa Jayasankar, another of nearly 16000 Indians, who has been living, working or studying in Ukraine, but now desperately want to return home in the wake of the military operation launched by Russia.

The Embassy of India in Kyiv has been over the past few days advising students and other Indians living in Ukraine to leave in view of Russia's military build-up around the country. Nearly 4,000 of 20,000 Indians living in the East European country did leave. But a large number of students were hesitant as air-fares were very high and the academic institutions did not confirm if they could continue to take classes online even after returning to India.

As Ukraine closed its airspace in the wake of the invasion by Russia, all commercial flights from Kyiv and other places in the country were cancelled. An Air India aircraft was on its way to Kyiv to bring home the students and other Indians, but it had to return without landing at its destination. A large number of students, who were at the airport to board the Air India aircraft and other commercial flights, got stranded and many of them turned up at the Embassy of India in Kyiv.

"It has been a very anxious day for you all...We heard that your flight is cancelled and realised that all of you are here. And as you know martial law has been imposed (by the Ukrainian Government) and too many people cannot be together,” Partha Sathpathy, New Delhi's envoy to Kyiv, later told the students, whom the embassy accommodated in a safe place after a few hours.

“So we took a conscious decision to keep you outside for authorities to see the numbers,” he said adding that led to the negotiations and eventually the place for their accommodation.

As the situation turned worse with Russia continuing bombing several cities in Ukraine, railway schedules going haywire and roads crammed with cars, the Embassy of India in Kyiv issued several advisories throughout the day, asking Indians to take shelter in underground metro stations to save themselves from bombs whenever sirens would alert them about aerial attacks.

The embassy also urged students and other Indians to stay wherever they were, in their familiar locations. “Those who are in transit, please return to your familiar places of habitation,” Satpathy, himself, said in a video message. “Those who are stranded here in Kyiv, please get in touch with your friends and colleagues in Kyiv, universities and other community members, so that you can temporarily lodge there.”

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(Published 24 February 2022, 17:52 IST)

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