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Halt hostilities for evacuation: India urges Russia, Ukraine

A fleeing mother and child cross a track at the Lviv central train station in Ukraine on March 4, 2022.

A fleeing mother and child cross a track at the Lviv central train station in Ukraine on March 4, 2022. | Photo Credit: AFP


India has urged both Russia and Ukraine to ensure “at least a local ceasefire” so that it could evacuateits nationals stranded in the conflict-torn eastern Ukrainian hotspots of Kharkiv and Sumy, said an official of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Friday.

Addressing the media in New Delhi, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said it is "difficult" for the Indian students to traverse through live conflict locations and India is unwilling to expose them to unexpected situations without an assurance of a ceasefire or a local ceasefire.

Also read | Indian student reportedly shot at in Kyiv: V.K. Singh

"Without ceasefire, it appears difficult. There is shelling take place, and the two armies have contact points. We do not want our students to pass through areas where they would be exposed to risks. It's a war zone and as you know anything can happen in such a situation. We would expect there should be a safe route for our students so that we they could be evacuated safely. We have asked both sides to agree to some form of ceasefire or at least a local ceasefire," said Mr Bagchi.

The Indian push for "some form of a ceasefire" came as the country continues to make efforts to evacuate its stranded nationals from Kharkiv and Sumy where at least 1,000 students continue to remain amidst a fast-shifting military situation. Earlier, Russian National Defence Control Centre Head Mikhail Mizintsev had stated that Russia would help in transporting foreign students back to their countries.

"A total of 130 comfortable buses are ready to depart to Kharkiv and Sumy from the Nekhoteyevka (near Belgorod) and Sudzha (near Kursk) checkpoints since 6 a.m. today in order to rescue Indian and citizens of other foreign states," said Mr Mizintsev.

Also read | Open helplines to know whereabouts of Indian nationals and students, SC suggests to govt.

The Indian official acknowledged that evacuating Indian students through the Russian territory would be “easy” but argued that there is an active zone of hostilities between the current location of the buses at Russian checkpoints and the position of the students inside Kharkiv and Sumy.

"These buses are actually, 50 or 60 kms away from where the students are. They are frankly too far away for them to just walk and take it. Having the buses is a good step but the key step is not there which is how do we get the students from where they are in relative safety (of bomb shelters)," said Mr Bagchi describing this phase as the “most difficult” that can’t be accomplished without security guarantees from both sides.

Also read | Over 3,700 Indians return on 17 flights as part of ‘Operation Ganga’

Mr Bagchi explained that India's primary focus remains on getting the students out in a safe and secure manner. The official reiterated that an Indian national has already died in the conflict and therefore New Delhi has reasons to be cautious about the safety of the students during the critical period of transiting through the areas near Sumy and Kharkiv.

He also assured that the Government of India would be bearing the medical cost of the required treatments for Harjot Singh who was shot and wounded in Kyiv and is currently hospitalised. India evacuated around 1,000 students from Kharkiv during a brief pause in hostilities on Wednesday. However, there has been no forward movement in the evacuation of the rest of the students despite an agreement reached by Russia and Ukraine during the second round of discussion in Belarus on Thursday.

Following the discussion, Dmytro Kuleba, Foreign Minister of Ukraine announced that Ukraine has set up a helpline for foreign students. “We have established an emergency hotline for African, Asian and other students wishing to leave Ukraine because of Russia’s invasion - +380934185684,” said Mr Kuleba in a social media post.

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Printable version | Jun 18, 2022 4:55:10 am |