The government today intensified efforts to bring back stranded Indians from Ukraine even as it denied that Indian students were being held hostage in the war-torn country, saying it was in constant touch with them.
“Our embassy in Ukraine is in continuous touch with Indian nationals in Ukraine. We note that with the cooperation of the Ukrainian authorities, many students have left Kharkiv yesterday. We have not received reports of any hostage situation regarding any student,” Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.
He said India has requested the support of the Ukrainian authorities in arranging special trains for taking out students from Kharkiv and neighbouring areas to the western part of the embattled nation.
The clarification came after Russia claimed that Ukrainian forces were keeping a large group of Indian students as “hostages” in the eastern Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv, which is virtually under Russian control.
To review the situation in Ukraine, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take part in a virtual meeting of ‘Quad’ leaders late tonight which will be attended by US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Fumio Kishida.
At a media briefing this evening, the MEA spokesperson said a total number of 18000 Indian nationals have left Ukraine so far. “The pace of Operation Ganga is being accelerated,” he added.
A total of 15 more flights have brought back some 3000 Indian nationals from Ukraine during the last 24 hours. Altogether 30 flights have landed in India so far, bringing back 6400 Indian nationals. Over the next 24 hours, 18 more flights, including three from the IAF, were scheduled to bring back the stranded Indians from the embattled country.
The spokesperson said India has identified another location near the Romanian border for evacuating the stranded Indians. “Over the next 2-3 days, a large number of Indians would have been brought back to India,” he added.
The spokesperson said India was keeping a close watch on the evolving situation in Ukraine. He said the fourth tranche of humanitarian assistance being sent by India for the war-affected people of Ukraine would be reaching Romania.
The spokesperson said India has been coordinating effectively with the countries in the region, including Russia, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova. A large number of Indians have been evacuated from Ukraine in the last few days. “We appreciate the help extended by the Ukrainian authorities to make this possible. We thank Ukraine’s western neighbours in receiving Indian nationals and for accommodating them while they waited for flights to take them back home,” he added.