Indian students in Ukraine’s Sumy send SOS; Govt says evacuating them a challenge

at 12:26 am
Damage caused in Ukraine by Russian bombardment.

New Delhi: Evacuating Indian students from Sumy region of Ukraine is proving to be a huge challenge because of continued shelling and absence of transportation, the government said here on Saturday as it mounted efforts to bring back the Indians from the war-hit country.

Meanwhile, in a move aimed at helping the evacuation process, Russia announced a ceasefire from 10 AM (Moscow time) Saturday to allow civilians to move out of the conflict zones.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said on Saturday that over 13,300 Indians have been brought home in 63 flights and the evacuation efforts are continuing.

External Affairs Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi told a media briefing that 13 more flights would be operated in the next 24 hours to bring Ukraine-based Indians home.

“Pisochyn has been evacuated of all Indian citizens. Mission will continue to remain in touch with them through their journey. Their safety has always been our priority,” Indian Embassy in Ukraine tweeted at around 8 PM IST on Saturday.

There were around 298 Indian students in Pisochyn, to evacuate whom 5 buses were organised by the government of India.

There were, however, desperate video appeals made by students stuck in Sumy where bombardment continued.

“The main focus now is on evacuating Indian students from Sumy, for which multiple options are being explored,” Bagchi said.

“The main challenges in evacuation of Indians from Sumy are ongoing shelling and violence and lack of transportation,” the MEA spokesperson said.

Earlier, he tweeted, “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.”

There are about 800 Indians, mostly students, in Sumy.

Bagchi’s comments came as a big group of students said they would be moving on foot towards the Russian border despite big risk to their lives as they no longer were willing to wait for the Indian government to safely evacuate them.

In a video message, which went viral, a girl standing among several other students is seen saying, “We are students of Sumy State University. It is the 10th day of war.

“Today, we got news that Russia has announced ceasefire to open humanitarian corridors for two cities. One of them is Mariupol which is 600 km away from Sumy.

“Since morning, we are constantly listening to bombarding, shelling and street fights. We are afraid, we have waited 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 for government and Indian embassy. If anything happens to any one of us, then Mission Ganga will be a biggest failure.”

In the morning, the Russian Defence Ministry announced a ceasefire, saying it had agreed on evacuation routes with Ukrainian forces to allow civilians to leave the strategic port of Mariupol in the southeast and the eastern town of Volnovakha from 10 AM (Moscow time)

The statement, however, did not specify how long the routes would remain open.