Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday said he had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help bring the ongoing Russian military campaign to an end. The acknowledgement of the conversation came shortly after India began the process of evacuating 694 students who were stranded in Sumy in eastern Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict on February 24.
“Lately I have spoken to leaders in Europe and with Indian Prime Minister Modi and asked them to bring this war to an end but words are not enough and action is necessary,” said Mr. Zelenskyy. The reference to Mr. Modi came a day after the two leaders spoke over phone when the Prime Minister urged Ukrainian cooperation in ensuring evacuation of around 694 Indian students in Sumy.
The preparation for moving out the students began in pre-dawn hours on Monday with the help of three different teams of officials on the ground in Ukraine. Apart from Mr. Modi’s conversation with President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Zelensky on Monday, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had been raising the issue of evacuation from Sumy with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba. Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla also spoke to Ukrainian officials concerned to shift the stranded students.
An informed source said the students were moved by 8 a.m. on Tuesday for a destination in the western part of the country. The journey however took some extra time as the drivers had to be changed in between. It is understood that from the western border town, they would board a train before being flown back home.
“Happy to inform that we have been able to move out all Indian students from Sumy. They are currently en route to Poltava, from where they will board trains to western Ukraine. Flights under Operation Ganga are being prepared to bring them home,” said Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
The Indian embassy in Kyiv urged all citizens of India residing in Ukraine to avail the humanitarian corridor announced on Tuesday and travel to the borders with the western neighbours of Ukraine to be flown back to India. However, India’s focus on evacuation is expected to linger even after the students are flown back home as a significant number of Indo-Ukrainian families and individuals continue to remain in the country and they have also reached out to New Delhi seeking help.
‘A different mission’
Addressing his first press interaction after his return from Hungary where he supervised Operation Ganga from March 1 till Monday, Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, said these efforts were “fundamentally” different from previous evacuation missions of the government due to the conditions on the ground. He said the Ministry of External Affairs had issued advisories to the students and about 6,000 had left Ukraine before the military action began on February 24.
The military campaign in Ukraine and the American threat of banning Russian oil exports added to the volatility in the Indian energy scenario. Answering a question, Mr. Puri assured that in view of the impact on the global energy scenario the government would take decisions with the “best interest” of the public at heart.
Referring to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s recent statement, the Minister said there was a “youth leader” who was urging people to fill up their vehicles’ tanks as the five State Assembly election results were to be announced on Thursday, anticipating a hike in fuel prices.
“I want to assure you that we will not allow oil shortage. We will make sure our energy requirements are met,” Mr. Puri said.