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Indian government trying to rescue every Indian in Ukraine after issuing multiple advisories to leave the country in the lead up to the war

Indian govt has told the Indians in Ukraine to stay wherever they are as the situation is highly tensed and that the air space is closed, railway schedules are in flux, and roads are crammed

As Russia started an invasion of Ukraine today morning, the question of securing the Indians in Ukraine has suddenly become one of the top priorities. Prior to the invasion when Russia had started a massive military buildup on the border, the government of India had issued multiple advisories to the Indians in Ukraine to leave the country well before the war began. After the invasion has begun, now the government is trying to rescue every Indian trapped in war-hit Ukraine. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has said on Thursday, 24th February 2022, that it is taking measures to bring back around 18,000 Indians from Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday. This has left more than 18000 Indians stranded in Ukraine. The number includes students as well as professionals.

Ministry of External Affairs taking firm steps to ensure safe return of the Indians

According to a report by the Republic World, the Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan has informed, “The MEA is taking steps to bring back about 18,000 Indians including students from Ukraine. As the air space in Ukraine is closed, alternative arrangements are being made for the evacuation of Indian nationals. The central government will ensure the safety of all Indians.”

He further added, “I spoke to Malayali students in Ukraine on phone. Indian students in the southern areas of Ukraine have told us that they are getting food, water, and power. Students and parents should not panic. Our government has brought back Indians even from places like Iraq.”

Advise for the Indians in Ukraine amidst war situations

Partha Satpathy is the Indian envoy to Ukraine. He has told all Indians in Ukraine to stay wherever they are as the situation is highly tensed and that the air space is closed, railway schedules are in flux, and roads are crammed. Till now, two flights full of Indians have come from Ukraine to India.

Earlier advisories by the government of India to the Indians in Ukraine

It is notable that Ukraine is not attacked by Russia all of a sudden. The possibilities of this war were expressed well in advance when Ukraine had received the first shipment of US military aid against Russia on 22nd January 2022. Following every new development on this front, the government of India had advised the Indians in Ukraine time and again to return to India.

On 15th February 2022, an advisory was issued by a mission urging Indian nationals to leave Ukraine. In this advisory, the Indian embassy in Kyiv had said, “All Indian students should leave Ukraine in view of the escalating military tension with Russia. In view of the uncertainties of the current situation in Ukraine, Indian nationals in Ukraine, particularly students whose stay is not essential may consider leaving temporarily.” The Embassy also urged Indian nationals to keep the mission informed about their location so that they could be contacted in case of emergency.

In fact, the Embassy of India in Kyiv had been contacting Indian citizens based in Ukraine and collecting information of those who would require evacuation in case a conflict flares up between Russia and Ukraine. This process was initiated more than three weeks before the advisory of 15th February 2022 was issued.

On 16th February 2022, the Indian government removed the restrictions on the number of flights and therefore the number of passengers to be moved between Ukraine and India. The civil aviation ministry had removed the restriction on the number of flights that can be operated between India and Ukraine under the bilateral air bubble arrangement to facilitate the travel of Indians from the eastern European nation.

On 18th February 2022, Air India announced that it will operate three flights between India and Ukraine on 22nd, 24th, and 26th February 2022. However, there was no takers for tickets in these flights. As a result on 20th February 2022, Air India was thinking to reschedule or postpone the flights owing to no bookings from Ukraine.

On 20th February 2022, the mission had issued a second advisory to Indians in Ukraine urging them strongly to leave Ukraine and come back to India. The embassy said, “In view of the continued high levels of tensions and uncertainties with respect to the situation in Ukraine, all Indian nationals whose stays are not deemed essential and all Indian students are advised to leave Ukraine temporarily.”

On 22nd February 2022, a third advisory regarding the additional flights was issued. Among about 20000 Indians in Ukraine, more than 18000 are students. Even after the repeated advisories were issued, many students were not ensuring that they leave Ukraine. Instead, they were worried about their academics. Therefore the embassy advised them to move back to India immediately rather than waiting for some confirmation from their universities. The embassy had also assured that it will talk about this issue with the respective authorities in order to cause no harm to the academics irrespective of the conditions.

On 22nd February 2022 itself, the students were also advised about the online classes by Ukrainian Universities as many students were not willing to leave in absence of online classes. Two Russian-speaking officers were also sent to Kyiv to help with the return of Indian nationals. Finally, as the war started, a fifth advisory was issued on 24th February 2022.

After the Russian invasion started, the airspace in Ukraine was closed, so evacuation of Indians stuck there at present is not possible. Therefore the guidelines for Indians in the country have been changed in the advisory issued today. In this advisory, the Indians in Ukraine are advised to return to their respective cities temporarily and not to leave homes and hostels considering martial law imposition. They are also informed of the closing of airspace and alternative arrangements for evacuation. The Indians in Ukraine were advised to relocate to western areas, and were informed the number of helplines has been increased.

In the meanwhile, Indian embassies in Ukraine’s neighbouring countries have started efforts to help Indians who are able to exit the country through land routes. The spokesperson MEA has informed that the MEA officials from Indian embassies in Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Romania are moving to the adjoining land borders with Ukraine.

The MEA also posted names and contact information of officials who can be approached by Indians after crossing the Ukrainian border with the respective countries. As flights have been suspended, entering these countries through land route by crossing the border remains the best option for Indians who want to leave Ukraine now.

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