Twenty-one-year-old Naveen Shekharappa Gyanagoudar, a student from Chalageri village in Karnataka, was standing in a queue at a supermarket in Kharkiv, Ukraine, to buy food, when there was Russian shelling. Naveen, a fourth-year medical student at the Kharkiv National Medical University, was near the Governor House in Kharkiv on March 1, Tuesday, when the shelling began. He died in the shelling, the Indian government said, confirming the deceased student's identity.
Dr Pooja, a coordinator for Indian students in Kharkiv for a private company, told journalist Aditya Raj Kaul that Naveen’s phone was found by a Ukrainian woman, who called and informed Naveen's friend that the owner of the phone had been sent to the morgue since he was killed in the blast. His roommate, named Amit, told TV9 that Naveen had gone to a nearby market early in the morning to get some food. The last contact they had with Naveen was when he called his friends, asking them to transfer some money to his account to buy the food. However, when he did not return even hours later, his friends feared the worst. "I knew him from a long time. He was in his fourth year, I am in the fifth year... Some of us left yesterday. He was saying let's all go together with juniors. But this has happened," Amit said, his voice breaking.
MEA officials have reached out to Naveen's family in Karnataka and informed them that his body has been transferred to a morgue. However, an MEA official also told the family that they cannot give any assurance on whether the body can be brought back to India.
Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai also reached out to Naveen's father, Shekargouda, and offered his condolences. "This is a tragedy. We are coordinating with MEA officials. We are making all efforts to bring back his body. You need to be brave," he told Naveen's father.
Other students from the Kharkiv Medical National University told TNM that they had to pay huge amounts of money to arrange for transport and reach railway stations. Most trains were running full and two students told TNM that Indians were being manhandled and pushed around by Ukrainian police force and others while trying to leave the war-torn country.
“With profound sorrow, we confirm that an Indian student lost his life in shelling in Kharkiv this morning. The Ministry is in touch with his family. We convey our deepest condolences to the family,” Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for the Union Ministry of Affairs, tweeted on Tuesday.
With profound sorrow we confirm that an Indian student lost his life in shelling in Kharkiv this morning. The Ministry is in touch with his family.— Arindam Bagchi (@MEAIndia) March 1, 2022
We convey our deepest condolences to the family.
Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second-largest city, after the capital Kyiv, and is on the eastern side of Ukraine. The rescue efforts are currently concentrated on the western borders of the country, which is under attack from neighbour Russia. According to students in Kharkiv, there are at least 3,000 Indians in the city and they are running out of essential supplies and money to buy supplies.
The MEA spokesperson said that India has called on Russia and Ukraine to ensure safe passage for Indian nationals stuck there. “Foreign Secretary is calling in Ambassadors of Russia and Ukraine to reiterate our demand for urgent safe passage for Indian nationals who are still in Kharkiv and cities in other conflict zones. Similar action is also being undertaken by our Ambassadors in Russia and Ukraine,” the MEA spokesperson added.
There are as many as 4,000 students still stranded in Kharkiv, which saw renewed Russian airstrikes on Tuesday. The administration building in the centre of Kharkiv came under Russian shelling, along with residential buildings. Videos posted on Ukrainian social networks and media showed a massive explosion next to the towering Soviet-era administrative building — called Governor House — on Kharkiv's central square hitting several cars parked in front of it, shattering windows but leaving the building largely intact.
The news comes even as thousands of Indian students continue to be stranded in Ukraine, amidst the efforts to evacuate them from the war-stricken nation. The Indian Embassy in Ukraine on Tuesday, March 1, had issued an advisory asking all Indian nationals to leave Kyiv “urgently today. Preferably by available trains or through any other means available.” The advisory came amid increasing fighting between Russian forces and Ukrainian troops around Kyiv.