In Sumy, Indian students await Government intervention

Their fate hangs in the balance as there is no progress on ‘humanitarian corridor’ for evacuation

Updated - March 05, 2022 09:13 am IST

Published - March 04, 2022 10:14 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A view shows thermal power plant destroyed by shelling, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in the town of Okhtyrka in the Sumy region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released on March 4, 2022.

A view shows thermal power plant destroyed by shelling, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in the town of Okhtyrka in the Sumy region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released on March 4, 2022. | Photo Credit: Reuters

The fate of several hundreds of students at Sumy in eastern Ukraine hangs in the balance as there was little progress on a "humanitarian corridor" for evacuation of civilians on Friday, while students who were able to reach Pesochin from Kharkiv after an advisory continued to leave for the western border on privately arranged buses.

"There were air-strikes and bombings on Sumy yesterday, which led to power and water supply being cut-off. We spent the entire night without electricity, and we can't cook without water. If we don't get killed by bombs, we will definitely die of starvation and thirst," says Shivangi Jaiswal, who shared videos of students collecting snow and water from roof channels.

She says that unlike Kharkiv, where there was some movement because of a train station, Sumy is cut off from all sides as roads and rail tracks have been damaged, entrapping students in their hostel bunkers.

"Only a government intervention can help us escape from here. But it seems no decisions are being taken for Sumy," said Ms. Jaiswal

‘Buses not helpful’

On Thursday, Russia and Ukraine agreed to create humanitarian corridors for evacuation of civilians and there were reports that 130 buses were waiting on the Russian border for Indian students. But Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at a press interaction on Friday that there would be difficulties in evacuating students from an active conflict zone until there was a ceasefire and Russian buses were very far from Kharkiv and Sumy and were not proving to be helpful.

Reacting to these comments from Sumy, Zara Azan said, "the government says they are waiting for us at the borders. I want to ask them, if you can't brave the shelling to reach us, then how do you expect young college students to make their way to the border without cabs, buses or trains. The least the embassy can do is arrange buses for us."

"Yesterday we saw several fighter planes drop bombs just metres away from our hostel, and several girls fainted on seeing that. Increasingly, children are falling sick due to cold or complaining of low blood sugar levels or suffering panic attacks. We may even have to carry them while planning our escape as we can't leave our friends behind," said Zara.

She asked why did the embassy not forewarn its citizens about escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

"In February, I had to travel from India to Ukraine and I called the Indian embassy to know if it was safe to travel as several other countries had started issuing advisories for their citizens and I was told that I could travel," says Zara.

‘No info on exit plan’

In Pesochin, where nearly 1,200 students fled to from Kharkiv following a government advisory on Wednesday, students continued to leave for the western border on privately arranged buses for which they have paid from their own pocket. They were earlier expecting that they would be able to make their escape through the border with Russia on buses they believed the embassy would arrange for them.

"There is no information yet from the embassy on an exit plan for us through Russia. Our student coordinator has arranged a few buses and we are slowly leaving on them. Two buses with 60 students left yesterday and nearly six are leaving today. We have been told that all students will be able to leave Pesochin by Saturday," said Mohamed Thaha Sheikh.

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