PM Modi speaks with Ukraine President Zelenskyy

Conversation comes less than two days after Modi-Putin phone call.

February 26, 2022 09:40 pm | Updated February 27, 2022 10:17 am IST

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Photo: Twitter/@ZelenskyyUa

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Photo: Twitter/@ZelenskyyUa

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday held a telephone conversation with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The conversation came four days after Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal had reached out to PM Modi and hours after India’s abstention during a U.N. Security Council resolution on the unfolding conflict.

“President Zelenskyy briefed the Prime Minister in detail about the ongoing conflict situation in Ukraine. The Prime Minister expressed his deep anguish about the loss of life and property due to the ongoing conflict. He reiterated his call for an immediate cessation of violence and a return to dialogue, and expressed India’s willingness to contribute in any way towards peace efforts,” said a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office here.

In his conversation with President Putin, Mr. Modi had similarly appealed for "immediate cessation of violence".

India's main concern is to ensure the safety of thousands of Indian students and professionals who are stuck in underground bunkers as Ukraine continues to be bombed by the Russian forces. Though India has initiated evacuation of its nationals, the ongoing fighting continues to pose a serious threat to the process.

On February 22, the Ukrainian embassy had sent a letter to PM Modi seeking a conversation with Mr. Shmyhal for an Indian intervention to avert the imminent conflict. The letter sought the conversation “at the convenient nearest time to discuss the issues connected with the current tense situation around Ukraine”.

But after the beginning of the invasion on February 24, Mr. Zelenskyy imposed martial law and became the sole leader of Ukraine. A special Indian emissary who had mediated between the two sides explained to The Hindu that there was no need for involving the Prime Minister of Ukraine as he had no power in the unfolding scenario.

“Spoke with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Informed of the course of Ukraine repulsing Russian aggression. More than 1,00,000 invaders are on our land. They insidiously fire on residential buildings. Urged India to give us political support in U.N. Security Council. Stop the aggressor together,” said Mr. Zelenskyy in a social media message after Saturday’s telephone call.

Shortly after talking to Prime Minister Modi, Mr. Zelenskyy also reached out to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey who had weeks ago urged both President Putin and Mr. Zelenskyy to meet and resolve the crisis.

Mr. Modi met Mr. Zelenskyy on the sidelines of the COP26 summit in Glasgow last autumn. The Ukrainian side had earlier reached out to the Indian government seeking a possible high-level interaction in January to avert a crisis as tension increased between Russia and Ukraine.

“The Indian side said the conversation between our leader and PM Modi should be preceded by a chat between Mr. Jaishankar and Mr. Kuleba and therefore the two Foreign Ministers had spoken on February 25,” said Ambassador Igor Polikha of Ukraine. Mr. Polikha had pleaded for Mr. Modi’s intervention to stop the Russian invasion soon after Mr. Putin announced the “special military operation”.

“The Ukrainian side would be most grateful for the prompt positive consideration of the above request as well as for the information regarding convenient date and time for the... telephonic conversation. Kindly notice the time difference between Kyiv and New Delhi is 3.5 hours,” the letter of February 22 had stated.

India abstained in the Security Council’s session on the resolution of the conflict on Saturday. Explaining the abstention, India argued that “no solution can ever be arrived at the cost of human lives”.

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