Putin alone can give assurance for safety of Indians, says Ukraine envoy

Updated on Mar 01, 2022 05:28 AM IST

Brushing aside reports of mistreatment and discrimination against Indians trying to flee the war-torn country, Ukraine envoy Igor Polikha emphasised the need for discipline and calm at border check points to ensure the orderly exit of all foreigners.

Ukraine envoy Igor Polikha
Ukraine envoy Igor Polikha
By, New Delhi

Ukraine is doing everything possible in challenging circumstances to facilitate the exit of Indian nationals, especially students, though Russian President Vladimir Putin alone can give assurances for their safety, Ukrainian ambassador Igor Polikha said on Monday.

Brushing aside reports of mistreatment and discrimination against Indians trying to flee the war-torn country, Polikha emphasised the need for discipline and calm at border check points to ensure the orderly exit of all foreigners. He said there are bound to be issues as some 500,000 Ukrainians and foreigners are seeking to flee through the land borders with Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.

“It’s a war, it’s a deep crisis... I can assure that the Ukrainian side is helpful to everyone who is trying to leave the territory,” Polikha told a news briefing at his embassy. He said he and his deputy were using personal and unofficial contacts to mitigate the problems of Indian citizens, and were in regular contact with border guard commanders.

Faced with several questions on whether Ukraine could give any assurances regarding the safety of the Indians, an exasperated Polikha said: “The main assurances should be given by Putin to the Indian students.”

He added, “We are interested to solve this issue but don’t forget the root cause of the problem. It’s not Ukraine, it’s not Indian students, it’s not other foreigners. You know the main cause of this tragedy – Russian bombs and shelling.”

Russia began what it called a special military action on February 24. There were an estimated 12,000 Indians in Ukraine as of Monday and some 2,000 have left via border crossings with Hungary and Romania in the past few days. However, Indian nationals have faced problem at the main border crossing to Poland, with hundreds of them facing long delays.

Polikha attributed these problems to the sheer number of people attempting to flee to Poland. He cited the instance of the wife and two children of the Ukrainian defence attaché being stuck at the Polish border for three days.

Asked about reports of mistreatment and discrimination against Indians, he said, “Stop talking about discrimination and racism. Please stop spreading panic. Me and my people... are in regular contact with our border guards and their commanders. There are untoward incidents with people from many countries and Ukrainians trying to get out of queue and get to the border out of turn.”

He said Indians stranded in conflict zones in eastern Ukraine were hiding in bomb shelters and were being provided humanitarian aid.

Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla called in the Russian and Ukrainian envoys on Sunday to convey India’s concerns about the safety and security of its nationals and to seek the support of both countries for their evacuation. Polikha said Shringla had requested him to try more actively to help, and also accepted his request to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.

The Ukrainian embassy is also trying to help hundreds of Ukrainians stranded in India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives following the disruption of air services.

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