Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed for an immediate ceasefire and a return to dialogue in a conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday night, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. Mr. Putin “briefed” Mr. Modi about the Russian decision to attack several locations in Ukraine, the PMO said, adding that the safe exit of Indian citizens from the conflict zone was India’s “highest priority”.
“Prime Minister Modi reiterated his long-standing conviction that the differences between Russia and the NATO group can only be resolved through honest and sincere dialogue,” said the statement. “The Prime Minister also sensitised the Russian President to India's concerns regarding the safety of the Indian citizens in Ukraine, especially students, and conveyed that India attaches the highest priority to their safe exit and return to India,” it said.
At a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security in Delhi, Mr. Modi reiterated that the safety of Indians in the conflict zone was the “topmost concern”, and reviewed the government’s arrangements for trying to bring Indians stranded there back, Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla said.
Mr. Modi’s conversation with Mr. Putin came after a day of several telephone calls between world capitals over the crisis. In Delhi, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar fielded calls from his counterparts in the European Union and the United Kingdom, and was due to speak with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
Earlier the Ukrainian envoy to India had forcefully pressed for India’s mediation to stop the bloodshed.
“We are deeply dissatisfied with the Indian position. Already 10-15 people were killed. We are asking.. pleading for the strong voice of India. In this case Prime Minister Modiji can address Mr. Putin. He can address our President. This is not the time for protocol-bound statements. Your officials said they are closely watching the situation. This means nothing. India is the founder of non-alignment. We plead for the support of India. It’s the moment of truth and moment of destiny,” said Ambassador Igor Polikha of Ukraine, urging Mr. Modi to personally initiate dialogue with Mr. Putin to halt the Russian military advances.
However, Mr. Shringla said no disappointment had been conveyed by the Ukrainian officials to India.
Mr. Polikha confirmed that Russia has launched military assault from three sides and that ground invasion had also begun early on Thursday.
Ambassador Polikha, who began his diplomatic career in 1989 as part of the foreign service of the erstwhile Soviet Union, said there was a possibility of the conflict turning into a bigger war in the coming days.
The Ukraine Defence Ministry spokesperson said the Russian forces launched over 30 Kalibr cruise missiles, shelled with multiple rocket systems, aircraft and artillery, targeting civilian and military infrastructure and installations. He assured that the Ukrainian forces were carrying out defensive operations.
The Embassy of Russia here claimed that the Ukrainian forces did not resist the invasion.
“Reconnaissance data show that separate units and servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are leaving their positions, abandoning their weapons. The positions of the units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine that laid down their arms are not subject to strikes,” informed the Russian Embassy. The Russian side claimed that the strikes are being carried out with “high-precision weapons” to minimise civilian casualties.
‘Urgent intervention needed’
But the Ukrainian envoy expressed concern about the safety of the civilians and Indian students under the shadow of the conflict, saying that precision weapons cannot guarantee safety in such a vast conflict and pressed for urgent intervention from the international community, NATO, EU and India.
“We are not dictating to our friends. We are pleading that you can provide us military, diplomatic or any other kind of assistance,” said Mr. Polikha, who is considered to be an expert on Indian and south Asian affairs.
Mr. Polikha said very few countries in the world could influence Russia and India was one of those nations with special ties with Moscow.