Union ministers Piyush Goyal and V Muraleedharan will receive at airports the Indians returning from war-torn Ukraine in government-chartered flights, official sources said on Saturday. Goyal will receive the evacuees at the Mumbai airport, coming in an Air India flight from Romanian capital Bucharest, later in the evening, while Muraleedharan will receive the batch at the New Delhi airport, they said. Around 16,000 Indians, mainly students, were stranded in Ukraine, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla had said on February 24.
The Indian embassy in Ukraine on Friday said it is working to establish evacuation routes from Romania and Hungary. Air India's first evacuation flight departed from Romanian capital Bucharest on Saturday afternoon for Mumbai with 219 Indian nationals who were stranded in Ukraine due to the ongoing Russian military offensive, officials said. The airline's second evacuation flight departed from Delhi at 11.40 AM and is expected to land in Bucharest at around 6.30 PM (Indian Standard Time), they noted. Indian nationals who reached the Ukraine-Romania border by road have been taken to Bucharest by Indian government officials so that they can be evacuated in the Air India flights, they said. The first evacuation flight AI1944 departed from Bucharest at 1.55 PM (Indian Standard Time) and is expected to land at the Mumbai airport at around 9 PM, they said. The second evacuation flight AI1942 is expected to return to the Delhi airport on early Sunday morning with another 250 Indian nationals, they mentioned.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Twitter that AI1944 with "219 Indian nationals has taken off from Romania". "Regarding evacuation of Indian nationals from Ukraine, we are making progress. Our teams are working on the ground round the clock. I am personally monitoring," he added. Air India will operate more flights on Saturday to Bucharest and Hungarian capital Budapest to evacuate Indians stranded in Ukraine. The Ukrainian airspace has been closed for civil aircraft operations since February 24 morning and therefore, the evacuation flights are operating out of Bucharest and Budapest.