As the Russia-Ukraine conflict continued for the second day, Indian citizens, including the many students residing in Ukraine, remain in distress and have urged the Indian government and Indian embassy authorities to repatriate them. Videos of the Indian students studying in different universities have flooded social media sending out SOS messages, hoping for a safe evacuation from the conflict-ridden country.
Russian troops began invading Ukraine on Thursday, February 24, as President Vladmir Putin cast aside international condemnation and sanctions and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere would lead to "consequences they had never seen." The move has left many Indians stranded as Ukraineās airspace was closed after this.
Many take shelter underground
Speaking to TNM, Prasad Nampally, a fifth-year medical student from Gajwel in Telangana, said that he had taken shelter in an underground metro station where he and many others in Kharkiv had gone after hearing sounds of bombing on the morning of February 25, Thursday. Heās back at his house in Kharkiv now. "I came back to gather my things after the bombing sounds stopped. If we hear bombing again, we may go to a bunker," he said.
Ajith, a fourth-year medical student in Kharkiv who also hails from Telangana, speaks to TNM from an underground bunker below his apartment building, sounding worried and distraught.
"We heard bombing start and rushed to take shelter in the bunker. We saw many others running to the underground metros," he says. "This is not normal. We can't hear sounds of bombs going off for half an hour and be normal," he continues, breaking down. "The governments need to stop this war and the Indian government needs to evacuate us. My parents are so worried. There are so many children here who want to get back to their families. The people here have been incredibly kind and are looking out for us foreigners as well, but this is very scary. It feels like we can die."
Mary*, hailing from Kerala and studying medicine in Zaporizhzhya, stays in a hostel with many other Indian students. "We have been told to pack our bags, essential documents and some eatables and keep them ready in case we need to be moved to a bunker. I really just want to be with my family back home," she says.
Citizens seek evacuation
Vamshi Krishna, a student from Palakonda of Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh, put out a video urging Indian authorities to evacuate them. āWe stay in the west part of Ukraine. The war is mainly taking place in the eastern part. As of now, there is no problem with the military or anything. If a problem occurs, water supply may go off and groceries may get over. All flights have been cancelled and it's not possible to even travel to an airport. We are waiting for the embassy and hoping it will evacuate us.ā
Bhvaya Sree, a medical student in Zaproguim Medical University, said that there are around 18 other students hailing from Amalapuram in East Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh. āThe situation in Ukraine right now is unimaginable. We are feeling tense here. We thought of booking air tickets but planes had been stopped already. We don't know what to do. Our parents have also been calling us. We request the Indian government to evacuate us,ā Bhavya Sree said.
Mohammad Ashiq, a fourth-year MBBS student from Coimbatore, who is currently in Poltava in between Ukraineās eastern border and Kyiv alleges that the Indian Embassy reacted late to the developing situation in Ukraine. āOur exit has been delayed. The reason is the Embassy. They gave us information very late. Other countries' embassies informed people almost 20 to 25 days earlier that the situation is likely to become this badā¦The Indian Embassy didn't give us any intimation.They didn't contact us properly, and when we contacted them, they didn't give proper replies,ā he added. Mohammad said that it was only in the last four days that the Indian Embassy issued such warnings but flights to return were unaffordable by then.
Following the Russian attack on Ukraine on Thursday, India set up evacuation points in Hungary and Romania, and said that the Union government will pay for the evacuation of those stranded. During a telephone conversation with Putin on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed for an immediate cessation of violence, and called for concerted efforts from all sides to return to the path of diplomatic negotiations and dialogue.
Indian nationals can call the following helpline numbers for information: +38 0997300483, +38 0997300428, +38 0933980327, +38 0635917881 and +38 0935046170.