India on Saturday said it has "strongly pressed" the Russian and Ukrainian governments through multiple channels for an immediate ceasefire to create a safe passage for the Indian students stuck in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sumy. Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the students have been advised to take safety precautions such as staying inside shelters and to avoid taking unnecessary risks and that the government is "deeply concerned about them". On Friday, he put the number of Indian students stranded in Sumy, which is nearly 60 kilometres from the Russian border, at around 700. The students have been sending SOS messages and posting videos on social media platforms, pleading for their urgent evacuation from the conflict zone as the city has been witnessing fighting and airstrikes.
"We are deeply concerned about Indian students in Sumy, Ukraine. Have strongly pressed Russian and Ukrainian governments through multiple channels for an immediate ceasefire to create a safe corridor for our students," Bagchi tweeted on Saturday. "Have advised our students to take safety precautions, stay inside shelters and avoid unnecessary risks," he said. Bagchi said the MEA and Indian embassies are in regular touch with the students. The students have been staying in the hostels of the Medical Institute of Sumy State University. India's comments came on a day the Russian defence ministry announced a temporary ceasefire around the cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha from 9 am to 4 pm local time (07:00-14:00 GMT). However, no temporary ceasefire was announced for cities where several hundred Indians are stranded, including Kharkiv and Sumy. India has been urging both Russia and Ukraine to create safe corridors for the evacuation of its nationals from the conflict zones in eastern Ukraine.
Earlier in the day, the Indian embassy in Ukraine said it is exploring all possible ways to safely evacuate the Indian nationals from Sumy and Pisochyn. The embassy specifically said it is reaching out to 298 Indian students in Pisochyn and buses are being arranged to evacuate them. "Reaching out to our 298 students in Pisochyn. Buses are en route and expected to arrive soon. Please follow all safety instructions and precautions. Be Safe Be Strong," it said in a tweet. The mission also said it is in touch with all the interlocutors concerned, including the Red Cross, to identify the exit routes to take out the Indians from Sumy. "Exploring all possible mechanisms to evacuate Indian citizens in Sumy, safely & securely. Discussed evacuation & identification of exit routes with all interlocutors including Red Cross," it said. "Control room will continue to be active until all our citizens are evacuated. Be Safe Be Strong," it added. The Indian students stuck in Pisochyn had reached there from Kharkiv following an advisory issued by the embassy on Wednesday.