Ukraine’s envoy to India on Thursday urged the Ministry of External Affairs to activate high-level dialogue involving Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the leaders of Ukraine and Russia.
The request came minutes after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a “special military operation” targeting Donbas in Ukraine. The order was quickly followed by multiple large explosions in various cities of Ukraine, which at present hosts approximately 18,000 Indian citizens.
The envoy said the goal of the Russian military operation was to “destroy” the Ukrainian state. This is the second such request from Ukrainian diplomats based in South Asia. Ahead of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s arrival in Moscow on Wednesday, a similar request for intervention and mediation was made by Markian Chuchuk, the Ukrainian ambassador to Pakistan.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Ukraine said Russian forces had begun attacking the country from multiple directions.
“Our partners should immediately enact a package of new sanctions. We also call on friendly capitals to continue strengthening Ukraine’s defence capabilities by providing weapons and military equipment,” said a statement from the MOFA, describing Ukrainian efforts as a “joint response” of the world. Shortly after President Putin announced a “special military operation” against Ukraine, the capital city Kiev reported loud blasts targeting certain facilities on the outskirts of the city.
Videos showed the blasts lighting up the city. Indian students residing there said they could hear multiple blasts taking place in the city, which holds a substantial Indian population as well as Indian restaurants and businesses.
“We are still in Kiev and were woken up by a loud blast 15 minutes back from the Boryspil airport side,” said Baroon Varma, an Indian student in the city, through a message on the social media.
Boryspil is the largest airport of Kiev and is located nearly 30 km from the eastern limits of the city. Ukrainian authorities, earlier in the day, prohibited all civilian aircraft from entering the airspace of the country. Within minutes of the order, all civilian aircraft, including those bound for international destinations, were forced to land at the nearest airports. The lack of air connectivity will mean that Air India will not be able to fly into Ukraine to bring back students and professionals.
The Embassy of India in Kiev had earlier issued two advisories urging “non-essential” Indian residents and students in various universities and medical colleges of Ukraine to leave. Many students, however, could not leave immediately as international airlines hiked ticket prices. Air India flew its first “special ferry flight” on February 22 to Kiev to airlift Indian citizens from Ukraine. Similar flights are unlikely to take place now. “We won’t be able to leave now,” said Panmana Anandhu of Sunny State University.
Mr. Anandhu, who hails from Kerala, said many Indians were in Kharkiv and Odesa, which have been bombed by Russian forces.
Sources here said that the officials were “closely monitoring” the Ukrainian crisis.
“Focus is on safety and security of Indians, particularly students. MEA control room is being expanded and made operational 24/7 basis,” said an official.