Friday, Aug 19, 2022

Ukraine Crisis: Indian Students Stuck In Crosshairs Of Russian Invasion

India's Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla assured all Indian citizens in Ukraine that the government will take all steps to bring them back safely. He also confirmed that there were around 20,000 Indians in Ukraine and of them, nearly 4,000 have returned to India in the last few days. 

People getting on buses to leave Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 24, 2022
People getting on buses to leave Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 24, 2022 AP Photos

Amid reports of large-scale bombing in Ukraine's capital Kyiv and reports of hundreds of deaths including civilians, India has been stuck in a political battle to extricate Indians, especially students stuck in Ukraine amid the Russian offensive. As per reports, nearly 16,000-20,000 Indians are stuck in Ukraine which was bombed by Russia. Amid growing tensions, Russia under President Vladimir Putin unleashed airstrikes on cities and military bases and sent in troops and tanks from three sides in an attack that could rewrite the global security order post-Cold War. 

While the implications of the Russian invasion of Ukraine may be intricate and layered, in India, the attack has led to a political slugfest with parties as well as families of Indians in Ukraine urging the government had prime minister to intervene and evacuate India.

Several videos and media reports depicting the strife of Indian students stuck in Ukraine have been going viral. Videos of students huddled in bomb shelters as shells hit the city have caused shock across the world. 

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also tweeted a video shared by a news channel on Twitter in which a student narrates the problems being faced by stranded Indian students.

What's happening in Ukraine?

Russian forces moved to the outskirts of Ukraine's capital on Friday as U.S. officials warned that President Vladimir Putin may be intent on installing a new, more friendly government.

The invasion began early Thursday with a series of missile strikes, many on key government and military installations. They were quickly followed by a ground assault from the north, east and south in an attack that could rewrite the global post-Cold War security order.

The assault, anticipated for weeks by the U.S. and Western allies and undertaken by Putin in the face of international condemnation and cascading sanctions, amounts to the largest ground war in Europe since World War II.

How many Indians are stuck in Ukraine?

According to reports, there are anywhere between 16,000-20,000 Indians are currently stuck in Ukraine. As per a report in NDTV, there are 16,000 people Indians stuck while other reports put the number at nearly 20,000. Videos SOS messages of Indian students stuck in their hostels in Kyiv have show students urging the Indian Embassy in Ukraine to evacuate them.  At a media briefing on Thursday, India's Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla assured all Indian citizens in Ukraine that the government will take all steps to bring them back safely. He also confirmed that there were around 20,000 Indians in Ukraine and of them, nearly 4,000 have returned to India in the last few days. 

Nearly 400 Indian students in Ukraine's Sumy city bordering Russia have taken shelter in a basement and have appealed to the government of India to evacuate them. Sumy in northeastern Ukraine is about 50 miles from the Russian border. The city mayor surrendered to Russian forces on Thursday.

The students, most of whom are studying in Sumy State Medical University, said they fear for their safety as gunshots can be heard outside.        

A former Indian national rapid chess champion Anwesh Upadhyaya is one among several of his compatriots stuck in Ukraine and is desperately hoping to be evacuated from the country which has been his home since 2012.

The 30-year old, who is doing apprenticeship in gastroenterology at a Kyiv hospital, had planned to return to India in March. But with Russia launching military operations on Thursday, flights have been suspended and he is unsure of what is in store.  "Did not expect this intensification. It is a full-scale military invasion. Never imagined this," the 2017 national rapid chess champion told PTI from Kyiv.

The Indian Embassy has asked people to stay indoors and have provided people with locations of bomb shelters if necessary. All Indians have been asked to stay in touch with the embassy through their official page.

What is being done to bring stranded Indians back?

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday night spoke to his counterparts from Romania, Hungary and Slovakia on the evacuation of stranded Indians from Ukraine. Jaishankar also held a telephonic conversation with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on the Ukraine crisis and underlined that dialogue and diplomacy are the best way forward to defuse the situation.

Several state governments have also issued notifications to help those stranded in Ukraine from their own states According to an official release by the Tamil Nadu government on Friday, 916 students and emigrants from Tamil Nadu stranded in the eastern European country have so far contacted the officials appointed by the government at district and state levels besides in New Delhi, regarding evacuation.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin has announced that the state government will bear all the expenses related to the return of students from the state stranded in Ukraine.

The West Bengal government on Friday set up a control room to help stranded students and people from the state. A notice issued by the state Information and Cultural Affairs Department said the 12-hour control room will be functional from 9 am. Families of those who are stuck in the CIS country can contact authorities on  2214-3526, 1070. Authorities are still assessing the total number of students from the state, who are stranded.

The Karnataka government on Friday said 91 people from the state are stranded in Ukraine and all of them are students pursuing MBBS there. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai spoke to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar regarding the safety and evacuation of students from the war-torn country.

Maharashtra minister Uday Samant has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to make arrangements for the safe return of 1,200 students from the state, who are currently studying in Ukraine.

Women have outnumbered men in exercising their franchise in the last two Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, with the number of Assembly segments with higher female voter turnout as compared to men also rising sharply in the state. The overall percentage of women voters in UP has also been on the rise, increasing from 60.28 per cent (as against 58.68% male voters) in 2012 to 63.61 per cent (against 59.15% men voters) in 2017.

What Ukraine said

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 137 civilians and military personnel have been killed so far in the Russian invasion of his country. He called them "heroes" in a video address released early Friday in which he also said hundreds more have been wounded. Zelenskyy says that despite Russia's claim it is attacking only military targets, civilian sites also have been struck. In his words: "They're killing people and turning peaceful cities into military targets. It's foul and will never be forgiven."

(With inputs from Agencies)