India to dispatch aid for Ukraine, bolsters its evacuation efforts

Updated on Mar 01, 2022 04:32 AM IST

The situation on the ground continues to be “complex and fluid”, though Indian authorities were able to accelerate the evacuation process since Sunday, external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told a special media briefing.

India will send aid, including medicines, in line with a request made by the Ukrainian envoy. (REUTERS)
India will send aid, including medicines, in line with a request made by the Ukrainian envoy. (REUTERS)
By, New Delhi

India on Monday stepped up efforts to evacuate some 12,000 Indian nationals from Ukraine amid persisting problems at border crossings to neighbouring countries, and announced it will send the first consignment of relief supplies to the war-torn country on Tuesday.

The situation on the ground continues to be “complex and fluid”, though Indian authorities were able to accelerate the evacuation process since Sunday, external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told a special media briefing. The focus remains on getting Indians out of Ukraine via land border crossings, and the situation on the frontier with Poland was “still difficult”, he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a meeting he chaired on Monday to review the evacuation process that the first consignment of relief supplies to deal with the humanitarian situation on Ukraine’s borders will be despatched on Tuesday. The assistance, including medicines, is being provided in line with a request made by the Ukrainian envoy, Bagchi said.

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In line with the country’s motto of the world being one family, Modi said India will help people from neighbouring and developing countries who are stranded in Ukraine and may seek assistance.

According to an official estimate, more than 8,000 Indian nationals have left Ukraine since the government issued its initial advisories well before the conflict began on February 24. Six evacuation flights – four from Bucharest and two from Budapest – have so far brought back 1,396 nationals.

There has been some progress in getting Indians out via crossings on the borders with Poland and Romania, following prolonged delays on Sunday, but Indian and Ukrainian officials said the situation at all such crossings is extremely fluid in view of the hundreds of thousands trying to flee the fighting.

The Indian embassy in Poland arranged 10 buses to facilitate Indian nationals exiting via the Shehyni-Medyka border crossing, and an Indian team began operations in Moldova on Monday to help Indians. The use of the western Ukrainian city of Uzhhorod as a staging post for taking Indians to Hungary on trains and the opening of the new route through Moldova is expected to ease the pressure, officials said.

“We want to emphasise that people should not reach the border directly. If they do, they will face long waiting times to cross as you’ve seen on the Polish and Romanian borders,” Bagchi said.

Indians should seek shelter in towns near the borders and move to the frontier only after consulting Indian officials so that they do not have to wait for long in cold weather, he said. “Flights are not the constraint. We will add more flights as needed...The main focus is to ensure that Indians are able to cross over from Ukraine into neighbouring countries,” he added.

There will be three charter flights on Tuesday – two from Bucharest to Delhi and Mumbai and one from Budapest to Delhi.

However, the situation in Kyiv and Kharkiv – which are “live and active conflict zones” – continues to be a concern. Thousands of Indians are still believed to be in these two cities that have witnessed intense fighting. Some Indians began moving to the safer western region from Kyiv on trains on Monday after the lifting of a weekend curfew.

The options in Kharkiv are limited and it is better for Indians to remain in bomb shelters as long as the fighting continues, officials said.

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