Amidst escalating tensions in Ukraine, Russia has alleged that the Ukrainians were holding a group of Indian students hostage to use them as human shields.
On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin held a phone conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi – the second in less than a week, during which the Russian President revealed to him that Ukrainian forces are using Indian students as human shields to gain leverage in the ongoing conflict with the Russian troops.
According to the latest information, these students are actually taken hostage by the Ukrainian security forces, who use them as a human shield & in every possible way prevent them from leaving for Russia. Responsibility in this case lies entirely w/ the Kiev authorities. https://t.co/Gx1HQa0U5l— Russia in India 🇷🇺 (@RusEmbIndia) March 2, 2022
Russian President Putin also assured India that its military was doing everything possible to ensure the safe evacuation of Indians from the “war zone”.
According to the readout of the conversation issued by the Kremlin, Putin has instructed his military to ensure “urgent evacuation of a group of Indian students from Kharkov (Kharkiv) through the humanitarian corridor along the shortest route to Russia”.
“At the same time, according to the latest information, these students are actually taken hostage by the Ukrainian security forces, who use them as a human shield and in every possible way prevent them from leaving for Russia. Responsibility, in this case, lies entirely with the Kiev (Kyiv) authorities,” the Kremlin readout said.
Here’s Kremlin readout of Russia President Putin’s telephone conversation with PM Modi a short while ago on 2 March 2022.— Kanchan Gupta 🇮🇳 (@KanchanGupta) March 2, 2022
The conversation between PM Modi and President Putin took place some hours after Indians stranded in the east Ukrainian city of Kharkiv were asked to leave and proceed towards three locations Pesochin, Babaye (both in Ukraine) and Bezlyudovka (in Russia) within four hours, even on foot if necessary.
The Indian embassy in Ukraine had issued an urgent advisory to all Indians in Kharkiv to leave immediately due to the deteriorating situation. Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, now hosts the largest number of Indians in Ukraine.
According to the Indian readout of the conversation between Modi and Putin, the two sides reviewed the situation in Ukraine, especially in the areas around Kharkiv where many Indian students are stuck.
“They discussed the safe evacuation of the Indian nationals from the conflict areas,” the readout read.
The Russians had agreed to provide a safe passage to Indians through their territory, the Russian envoy had informed yesterday.
India says no reports of any student held hostage
In another statement, the MEA added that India has “not received reports of any hostage situation regarding any student” amid war in Ukraine. The readout said that the Indian government has requested the Ukrainian government for arranging special trains to take students out of Kharkiv and neighbouring areas.
Breaking: India says it has “not received any reports of any hostage situation regarding any student” amid war in Ukraine.— Sidhant Sibal (@sidhant) March 3, 2022
MEA statement: pic.twitter.com/ysAbpIO6s4
Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry had also stated that Russian armed forces are ready to take all necessary measures for the safe evacuation of the Indian citizens.
“And send them home from the Russian territory with its own military transport planes or Indian planes, as the Indian side proposed to do,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Earlier, there were allegations that Zelenskyy’s regime was using civilians as human shields to prevent the forward movement of the advancing Russian army. Reports suggested that Ukraine has allegedly put Indian students in a hostage-like situation at the Poland border.
Ukraine establishes hotline for evacuation
Hours after Russia alleged that Ukrainian troops are using Indians as human shields to protect themselves, Ukraine claimed to have established an emergency hotline for African, Asian and other students wishing to leave Ukraine because of Russia’s military operation.
Dmytro Kuleba, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, said that the stranded students could dial the hotline for their safe evacuation. He added that they are working intensively to ensure their safety and speed up the passage.
We have established an emergency hotline for African, Asian and other students wishing to leave Ukraine because of Russia’s invasion.— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) March 2, 2022
We are working intensively to ensure their safety & speed up their passage. Russia must stop its aggression which affects us all. pic.twitter.com/HRJPoOI0pg
The Foreign Ministry said that they had offered the students to leave the territory of Ukraine via the Ukrainian-Polish border. “They offered to go through the territory where active hostilities are taking place,” the statement said.
As per the reports, around 3,000 students are still stranded in these cities, the majority in Kharkiv.
It is notable here that many Indian students had shared videos saying they are being harassed by Ukrainian authorities and prevented from boarding trains.
US says no incidents of using civilians as human shields
Meanwhile, the US Department of State on Wednesday said that they have not seen any verified report of Ukraine using Indian students as human shields.
The State Department claimed that these allegations are commonly used in Russian disinformation.
“We have seen no verified reports of these incidents, and these types of reports about using civilians as human shields are commonly used in Russian disinformation,” a US Department of State spokesperson said.