More than 500 Indian students are scattered in two hostels, and are waiting for approval from the Ukrainian government and Indian embassy to go reach the Russian border.

Shabby underground bunker in Sumy, Ukraine, where a number of students are sitting against the wall with mobile lights onStudents in a bunker in Sumy, Ukraine / Courtesy - Malavika
news Russia-Ukraine Conflict Friday, March 04, 2022 - 18:42

On the night of March 3, Thursday, hundreds of Indian students stuck inside two hostels of the Medical Institute of Sumy State University in Ukraine, heard the sound of a bomb strike and saw the sky erupt into colours. The power plant next to the University was bombed, hardly two kilometres away from where the students stayed. More than 500 Indian students are scattered in these two hostels, and since the bombing, there has been no water or electricity.

“We saw the sky break into colours and got so tense we immediately rushed to the bunkers below. There is no water or electricity and we don’t know what will happen to us any minute. I am attending this call using light from my mobile phone,” says Malavika, a medical student at Sumy, to TNM.

The students had been making a plea to open the Russian border nearby – which is only 40 km away -- so they could travel home from there. The other borders – Poland, Romania or Slovakia – are all more than a thousand kilometres away and will take them 20 hours and as many buses.

“Now buses are ready to take all the 500 to 600 students to the Russian border. We are just waiting for the approval of the Ukrainian government and the Indian embassy. Our coordinators have been trying to get their permission but there has been no response so far. It will be too risky for us to go on our own – the coordinators do not want to take that risk since in 2014, during similar circumstances, a bus was attacked,” says Malavika.

Rineesh, student coordinator at Sumy, says that immediate intervention of the authorities was needed for their safe evacuation.

“The students have only two options, to travel to the border to Poland, Romania or Slovakia which is 1200 kms away, this will take 20 hours and we will need at least 16 buses. This is an impossible task; a green corridor has to be opened. No bus driver is ready to come. The Russian border is 40 kms away. Our officials are there but we have still have no word whether we can travel there,” Rineesh says.

He adds, “We hope India is able to convince Russia to give a green corridor and also get assurance from Ukraine that they will also allow us to pass.”

Several Indian students at Sumy also took to social media to plead for evacuation. Staring at fast-depleting food and water supplies, they are posting updates every few hours, and urging the government to rescue them immediately before the situation worsens and they are "reduced to bodies".

One of them, Mahek Shaikh, shared an eight-second video clip on Thursday of what appeared to be a blast in the town.

 

 

"Complete city blackout, no electricity and water supply and multiple bomb blasts nearby. Slow network," she wrote in the post.

Another medical student, Radhika Sangwan, said that 700-800 students are stranded in Sumy, and there was no confirmed news on their evacuation.

"I am a student in Sumy, Ukraine. YES WE EXIST!!! There are 700-800 students in Sumy. It's the 7th day of attack and there is no confirmed news on our evacuation. Stress , fear and anxiety are getting to us. Hope is lost. Please help," Sangwan tweeted on Thursday.

On Sunday, the Indian embassy in Ukraine said that intense fighting was underway in Kharkiv, Sumy and Kyiv, and urged Indians in these cities and wherever curfew has been applied to not venture towards railway stations until such curbs are lifted and considerable civilian movement is renewed.

According to several reports, trains and buses have stopped plying in Sumy, roads and bridges out of the city being destroyed. All routes blocked and with no help from the embassy in sight, the students are worried about their well-being.

Holed up in a bunker, three visibly-distressed medical students shared a video on social media in which they pleaded for evacuation, saying they are running out of food and the security situation is worsening.

"There is no electricity. We are running out of water. There was a huge explosion that is why we ran into the bunker. Please evacuate us," one of them said.

In another video shared tweeted by Mahek on Thursday, several armed men were seen roaming outside their hostel.

"Looking out of our room's window, another sighting of armed men going around our hostel is what we notice. It's unsafe to step out and the Indian Embassy wants us to catch trains and cross cities. Please evacuate us before the situation worsens," she wrote.

To evacuate citizens from war-hit Ukraine, the Indian government initiated Operation Ganga a few days ago. However, the evacuation from the eastern part of the country has been a cause of concern as heavy violence in underway.

India has been evacuating its citizens through special flights from Ukraine's western neighbours such as Romania, Hungary and Poland as the Ukrainian airspace has been shut since February 24 due to the Russian military offensive.

(With PTI input)

Also read: Reaching the border was onerous, Indian govt didn’t ‘evacuate’ us: Ukraine returnees

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