Mission airlift: As fighting surges in Ukraine, India continues to send evacuation flights for its stranded citizens : The Tribune India

Mission airlift: As fighting surges in Ukraine, India continues to send evacuation flights for its stranded citizens

Air India flights have brought back over 700 evacuees so far; two more evacuation flights likely



PTI

Agencies
New Delhi, February 27

India continued to send evacuation flights to Romania and Hungary to bring back stranded Indians as the invading Russian forces came closer and closer to the Ukrainian capital city Kyiv.

India's second evacuation flight, AI1942, landed in Delhi from Bucharest around 2.45 am on Sunday with 250 passengers, and a third with 240 people left from Budapest and landed with 240 people at 9.20 am, PTI quoted officials as saying.

India's first evacuation flight, AI1944, brought back 219 people from Bucharest to Mumbai on Saturday evening.

An Air India spokesperson said the airline's fourth evacuation flight is expected to come from Bucharest to Delhi with evacuees on Sunday afternoon.

The spokesperson said there were plans to send two more planes to Bucharest and Budapest on Sunday so that they can operate fifth and sixth evacuation flights but it is "all highly tentative".

India has named the evacuation mission 'Operation Ganga'.

"Fourth #OperationGanga flight is wheels up from Bucharest. 198 Indian nationals are coming back to Delhi," Jaishankar tweeted.

In an earlier tweet, he said: "Third flight of #OperationGanga with 240 Indian nationals has taken off from Budapest for Delhi."

India’s Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia greeted the evacuees at the Delhi airport.

Scindia said, "I know you all have been through a very, very difficult time, a very, very trying time. But know this that the PM is with you at every step, the Indian government is with you at every step, and 130 crore Indians are with you at every step." He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in touch with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyyy and talks are being held so that everyone is brought home safely.

The minister said talks are also on with the Russian government and the Indian government will breathe easy only after each and every stranded Indian is evacuated from Ukraine.

"So, please pass on this message to all your friends and all your colleagues that we are with them and we will guarantee their safe passage back," Scindia said.

"I welcome you all on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I would like to congratulate the team of Air India too, for putting in so much effort to bring you all back," he added.

This comes as blasts were heard to the west of Kyiv's centre on Sunday, minutes after air raid sirens sounded, a Reuters correspondent reported. Ukrainian media reported explosions and a gunfight in a nearby town.

The Ukrainian airspace has been closed for civil aircraft operations since February 24 morning when the Russian military offensive began. Therefore, the Indian evacuation flights are operating out of Bucharest and Budapest.

Indian nationals who reached the Ukraine-Romania border and Ukraine-Hungary border were taken to Bucharest and Budapest, respectively, by road with the assistance of Indian government officials so that they could be evacuated in these Air India flights, the officials said.

The government is not charging the rescued citizens for the evacuation flights, they said.

Scindia told reporters at the airport terminal that approximately 13,000 Indians are stranded in Ukraine as of now.

"You know it is an extremely sensitive situation there (Ukraine). In this situation, we are talking with each Indian national, including students, through telecommunications," he said.

"We will bring them back as soon as possible," he said.

Air India shared on Twitter photos of Scindia receiving the evacuees at the airport.

"Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia receiving the Indian nationals who were flown back to Delhi from Bucharest by AI 1942 on February 27 early morning, operated to evacuate Indians stranded at war-ravaged Ukraine," the airline said.

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla had said on February 24 that around 16,000 Indians, mainly students, were stranded in Ukraine.

#indians in ukraine #russia ukraine conflict #ukraine crisis

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