Amid intense shelling by Russia, India focuses on evacuating students from Sumy

Updated on Mar 06, 2022 04:51 AM IST

During the day, Indian students at Sumy State University posted an emotional video on social media in which they said they would undertake a risky journey towards the Russian border on foot, and claimed that no effort had been made to evacuate them. Some of the students claimed this would be their “last video”.

Efforts launched on Friday resulted in almost all stranded Indians leaving the eastern city of Kharkiv and the nearby village of Pisochyn in buses and other vehicles. (ANI PHOTO.)
Efforts launched on Friday resulted in almost all stranded Indians leaving the eastern city of Kharkiv and the nearby village of Pisochyn in buses and other vehicles. (ANI PHOTO.)

India on Saturday focused its evacuation efforts in Ukraine on the eastern city of Sumy, where hundreds of Indian students have made desperate appeals to be rescued amid dwindling food supplies and intense shelling by Russian forces.

Also Read | Ukraine crisis: Sumy, Pisochyn students send SOS; India calls for ceasefire

Concerted efforts launched on Friday resulted in almost all stranded Indians leaving the eastern city of Kharkiv and the nearby village of Pisochyn in buses and other vehicles. A total of 298 students, who found shelter in Pisochyn after leaving Kharkiv earlier this week, were driven out in five buses on Saturday.

The “main focus” of evacuation efforts was on Sumy, located near the Russian border, and the Indian side is exploring multiple options to get some 700 Indians out of the besieged city. However, these efforts are being hampered by shelling and violence as well as a lack of transport, external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told a media briefing.

“The best option for us would be a ceasefire that allows us to get our students out. In this connection, we have been strongly pressing both the Russian and Ukrainian sides to allow [a] local ceasefire just to get a corridor for our students,”

“We are strongly urging both sides to have a ceasefire. Whether it will happen, when it will happen, we will see...,” he added. Indian teams are in place on the Russian side of the border and in eastern Ukraine to get the students out of Sumy. However, the areas around the location of the students are being shelled and any attempt to move them would put them at risk, he said.

During the day, Indian students at Sumy State University posted an emotional video on social media in which they said they would undertake a risky journey towards the Russian border on foot, and claimed that no effort had been made to evacuate them. Some of the students claimed this would be their “last video”. They also spoke about their difficulties, saying they were running low on food and water.

Also Read | ‘Melting snow for drinking’: Indian student describes plight in Sumy

Soon after the video went viral, the students were contacted by officials from the Indian embassy in Kyiv and the external affairs ministry’s control room and dissuaded from moving out of the safety of their campus.

Bagchi said, “We know what you are going through. It’s a tough situation, you are managing it with fortitude. Please stay safe, avoid unnecessary risks. Safety and security is paramount.” He added the students had been advised to take precautions and avoid unnecessary risks.

Also Read | Stay inside, govt pressing for ceasefire: Centre's message to students in Sumy

He further said that even walking from Sumy to the Russian border, a distance of about 60 km, wasn’t an option because of the ongoing shelling and the need to cross both the Ukrainian and Russian frontlines. He added that even the ceasefire announced on Saturday for the evacuation of people from the cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha had been marred by violations.

The Indian ambassador to Ukraine, Partha Satpathy, said in a message that the mission “will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to ensure safe evacuation of Indian students” from Sumy. “I know that our students have been through a lot and have shown unparalleled strength and determination during these times. I urge you for some more patience and forbearance so that we can ensure your safety and security,” he said.

Bagchi said a total of 63 evacuation flights had so far brought back more than 13,300 Indian nationals. A total of 3,000 nationals returned on 15 flights operated on Friday and Saturday to Delhi and Mumbai. Another 13 flights will be operated on Saturday and Sunday from Budapest, Kosice, Rzeszow and Bucharest.

India has also sent 16.5 tonnes of humanitarian assistance to Ukraine in six consignments delivered through neighbouring countries, he said.

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