The horde of Indian students stranded in Sumy who decided to walk to the Russian border amid intense fighting in the region are now "confused" whether to continue their journey after the Ministry of External Affairs urged them to avoid taking unnecessary risks.
As evacuation from the shelling-battered city remains a challenge for Indian authorities, the students said they could no longer cope with the nail-biting cold, depleting food supplies and having to melt snow to get drinking water.
Around 700 Indian students are still stuck in the war-hit region, their evacuation hampered by the continuous fighting in the area.
The students have released several desperate videos on social media, saying they have decided to undertake the potentially fatal journey to the Russian border, some 50km from where they are, sending shockwaves in New Delhi.
They said they hope they would be picked up by Indian authorities from the Russians border.
"We are afraid. We have awaited a lot and we cannot wait anymore. We are risking our life. We are moving towards the border. If anything happens to us, all the responsibility will be on the government and Indian embassy," a student, surrounded by a large number of his peers holding Indian flags, says in one of the videos.
In another video, students are seen filling up buckets with ice as they ran out of drinking water.
This prompted the Indian Ministry of External Affairs to urge them to stay inside shelters and avoid taking unnecessary risks.
"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," MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.
After the statement, the group of students have halted their journey for now.
"We had already started moving after we gave up hope on the government coming to our rescue. But now with the new advisory, we are confused whether we should take the risk at all. I am so so scared," said Md Nizamuddin Aman (21), a first-year MBBS student at Sumy State University.
Russia and Ukraine agreed on Thursday to the need for creating humanitarian corridors to help civilians escape the war. Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine a "special military operation."
The war in Ukraine has entered its 10th day with evacuation from war-hit cities remaining difficult. Students stranded in these areas are posting videos on social media, pleading with the Indian government to evacuate them.
To evacuate citizens from war-hit Ukraine, the Indian government has launched Operation Ganga. However, the evacuation from the eastern part of the country has been a cause of concern as heavy violence in underway.
India has been evacuating its citizens through special flights from Ukraine's western neighbours such as Romania, Hungary and Poland as the Ukrainian airspace has been shut since February 24 due to the Russian military offensive.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs, nearly 17,000 Indian nationals have left Ukraine's borders since advisories were issued over a fortnight back.
Russia on Wednesday said it is working "intensely" to create a "humanitarian corridor" for safe passage to Russian territory of Indian nationals stuck in Kharkiv, Sumy and other conflict zones in Ukraine following a request from New Delhi.
An estimated 20,000 Indian nationals, mainly medical students, reside in Ukraine.
( With PTI Inputs)