Indian students fume at embassy’s ‘short notice’ advisory leave Kharkiv

It is nearly impossible to leave in such a hurry, they say; 22-year-old Indian dies of a stroke in Ukraine hospital

Updated - March 03, 2022 07:23 am IST

Published - March 02, 2022 10:48 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Indian students pray under the lit ceiling of a wedding venue in Corbeanca, Romania, March 1, 2022.

Indian students pray under the lit ceiling of a wedding venue in Corbeanca, Romania, March 1, 2022. | Photo Credit: Reuters

There is anger and exasperation among hundreds of Indian students and professionals in Kharkiv after the Indian Embassy in Kyiv issued an advisory on Wednesday asking them to leave the city at a “short notice”.

“If the situation was this bad, why did the government not ask us to leave before. Students like me repeatedly asked the government to take some action as the situation was worsening rapidly. But despite these requests nothing happened. And, now students have been asked to leave at such a short notice,” said Bhanvi Bhatia who managed to rush to the main train station in Kharkiv and was lucky to board a train, but she feared for many left behind.

Russia-Ukraine crisis updates | March 2, 2022

“It would be nearly impossible for everyone to leave in such a hurry. The government should communicate its decision well in time,” Ms. Bhatia said.

At around 2 p.m. local time, the Embassy asked all Indian nationals in Kharkiv to leave the city ‘immediately’ and asked them to proceed to Pesochyn, Babai and Bezlyudika by 6 p.m.

The advisory was issued by the Embassy after “inputs” from the Russian government, the MEA said, but declined to comment on whether the urgency to leave Kharkiv was because Russia had planned more attacks on Ukraine’s second largest city, and whether those reaching the areas on the outskirts of Kharkiv mentioned in the advisory would be transported out of the country from there. 

Also read | Stuck in university at Ukraine’s Sumy city, 600 Indian students await evacuation amid shortage of food, water

Parvati Benu, a journalist in New Delhi, was equal parts relieved that her cousin managed to escape just hours before the government advisory, and equal parts worried about the many who were stopped from boarding trains.

“Until Monday evening, my cousin and her friends didn’t want to leave their bunkers until there was a communication from the Embassy. But then they heard loud blasts and came to know of the death of the Indian student in Kharkiv and they decided early morning to leave for the train station,” Ms. Benu said.

Naveen S G, a fourth-year MBBS student at Kharkiv, died in shelling in the city while he was standing in a queue outside a grocery store. On Wednesday, Chandan Jindal (22), who was suffering from a stroke, breathed his last at a hospital in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

Students shared photos of thousands of people waiting on a platform in the city’s train station. Ms. Benu says the student co-ordinator decided that women students like her sister would be allowed to board first and asked their male friends to wait for another train.

“Unfortunately, they were not allowed to board the next train. Indians were not being let in. Now, they have found shelter in a village,” said Ms. Benu.

An Indian businessman, Biju Thomas (name changed) who has been in Kharkiv for 15 years and was trying to find a safe passage for himself and his family that includes an infant, said, “Six days of war and no evacuation yet and asking students to come to some city when it is shelling like rain (sic).”

In nearby Sumy, students were shocked on why there was no advisory for them and were confused about what they were expected to do.

“All roads and rail tracks in Sumy are damaged. This city is also seeing shelling and bombing on the scale that Kharkiv is witnessing. Why is there no information for us. There are nearly 800 students in Sumy. Their last-minute advisory for Kharkiv shows that these people are sleeping,” says Shivangi Jaiswal.

About the government’s efforts she only said, “The government is standing on the other side of the border and extending its hand from there. This is frustrating.

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