Indian student killed in Ukraine grocery queue
Naveen Shekharappa Gyandagoudar was standing in a line outside the store in Kharkiv when the area was apparently hit by shelling. The 21-year-old Karnataka native was a student of the Kharkiv National Medical University.
New Delhi: Naveen Shekharappa Gyandagoudar, a 21-year-old student from Karnataka, was killed on Tuesday in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, which has witnessed intense shelling, heightening concerns for thousands of other Indians still in the conflict zone.
Gyandagoudar, a student of Kharkiv National Medical University, died when he stepped out of his apartment in the morning to buy provisions from a grocery store a short distance away. He was standing in a line outside the store when the area was apparently hit by shelling. Some reports said he may have been shot dead.
The evacuation of Indian nationals from Kharkiv, Sumy and other cities in eastern Ukraine, hit by shelling by Russian troops over the past few days, has been a priority of the Indian government. Reports have emerged of Indians spending up to four or five days at a stretch in bomb shelters and bunkers in these areas and of shortages of food and water.
However, most people have been unable to leave these eastern cities because of the closure of Ukrainian airspace following the Russian attacks that began on February 24 and the disruption of rail and public transport services.
Gyandagoudar’s death was confirmed by external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi. “With profound sorrow we confirm that an Indian student lost his life in shelling in Kharkiv this morning. The Ministry is in touch with his family. We convey our deepest condolences to the family,” he said in a tweet.
The fourth-year medical student’s classmates in Kharkiv told the media he was a very hard-working person who was devoted to his studies. They said he had stepped out to buy provisions when a curfew was lifted at 6am because they were running short on food. Gyandagoudar made his last call home to his mother in Haveri district of Karnataka to reassure his parents and to tell them not to worry about his safety.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai spoke to Gyandagoudar’s family and condoled his death. Officials said efforts are underway to bring the student’s body back to the country.
President of the European Council Charles Michel also expressed his condolences to PM Modi. “I expressed my condolences to PMOIndia for the loss of life of an Indian student in Kharkiv today due to indiscriminate Russian attacks against innocent civilians. European countries are wholeheartedly helping Indian citizens to evacuate from Ukraine,” Michel said in a tweet.
The Indian side reiterated its demand to Russia and Ukraine for safety and safe passage for Indian nationals caught in conflict zones, mostly in eastern and southern Ukraine. The demand, first made by foreign secretary Harsh Shringla during separate meetings with the Russian and Ukrainian envoys on Sunday, was reiterated to the two ambassadors on Tuesday. The Indian embassies in Russia and Ukraine conveyed a similar message.
Several videos posted on social media have shown the shelling of different locations in Kharkiv, including an area near Kharkiv National Medical University, which has numerous Indian students.
Some 4,000 Indians are estimated to be in Kharkiv, Sumy and other cities in eastern Ukraine. People familiar with developments described the deteriorating situation in Kharkiv as a matter of grave concern.
“We had already taken up with the Russian and Ukrainian embassies the pressing requirement of safe passage for Indian nationals, including students, from Kharkiv and other cities in conflict zones,” one of the people said.
“This demand has been repeatedly made of Russia and Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict on February 24. It has been conveyed to their ambassadors in New Delhi and taken up in the Russian and capitals,” the person added.
Though an Indian team has been positioned in the Russian city of Belgorod, some 100 km from the Ukrainian border, to facilitate evacuations from Kharkiv and nearby cities, the conflict in that region has been an obstacle, the people said.
“Therefore, it is imperative that Russia and Ukraine respond to our need for safe passage urgently,” the person said.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Indian embassy in Kyiv advised all Indians in the Ukrainian capital to leave the city “urgently” by train or any other means against the backdrop of reports of a 64-km-long Russian military convoy moving towards the region.
“All Indian nationals including students are advised to leave Kyiv urgently today. Preferably by available trains or through any other means available,” the embassy said in the brief advisory posted on Twitter.
Satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies of the Russian military convoy moving in on the Ukrainian capital showed that it stretched for almost 64km. The imagery from Monday showed the convoy appeared to include hundreds of armoured vehicles, tanks, towed artillery and logistics vehicles.