In phone call with Putin, PM Modi stresses evacuation of students from Ukraine
PM Modi’s phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin was the second between the two leaders since February 24 when Putin ordered the special military operation in Ukraine.
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to review the situation in Ukraine and to emphasise India’s need to evacuate its citizens from Kharkiv city amid an assault by Russian forces.
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This was the second phone conversation between the two leaders since Putin ordered the special military operation in support of the breakaway Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk on February 24 and reflected India’s urgent efforts to pull out its nationals from conflict zones in eastern Ukraine following the death of an Indian student in Kharkiv.
“The leaders reviewed the situation in Ukraine, especially in the city of Kharkiv where many Indian students are stuck. They discussed the safe evacuation of the Indian nationals from the conflict areas,” the external affairs ministry said in a brief statement without giving details.
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Since Sunday, the Indian side has separately called in the envoys of Ukraine and Russia twice to demand safe passage for all Indians stranded in conflict zones in eastern Ukraine. An estimated 4,000 Indians are believed to be in Kharkiv, Sumy and other conflict zones, though several hundred left the region in trains on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Russian ambassador-designate Denis Alipov told reporters on Wednesday that his country is putting in place “humanitarian corridors” for safe evacuation of Indians in conflict zones and will conduct an investigation into the death of the Indian student in Kharkiv.
The Indian embassy in Ukraine issued an urgent advisory on Wednesday, asking all Indians to leave Kharkiv within five hours and move to three nearby safe zones. Indian officials said the advisory was based on inputs from Russia.
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Most Indians in Kharkiv are in bomb shelters and bunkers with dwindling food and water supplies. The city has been hit by Russian bombs and rockets since Tuesday and several government buildings have been destroyed.
During his previous phone conversation with Putin on February 24, Modi appealed for an immediate end to violence in Ukraine and urged all parties to return to the path of diplomatic negotiations.
Modi was the first world leader to speak to Putin after the Russian president ordered the military operation in Ukraine. Modi also “sensitised the Russian President about 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”, an official statement had said.
A Russian readout of the February 24 conversation had said Modi “asked for assistance in ensuring the security of Indian citizens” in Ukraine, and in response, Putin had said that “necessary instructions would be given”.