New Delhi, March 5
The Minister of External Affairs advisory warning people from walking to the Russian border has left several Indian students in Sumy in a quandry.
Some 700 students are left stranded in the nail-biting cold as fighting escalates in the area. Supplies are running low and access to water is completely cut off, forcing several people to melt snow to get drinking water.
The walk to the Russian border would be about 50 km, and students must brave not just the bone-chilling cold but also bombing and shelling in the hope that once at the Russian border, they would be airlifted out to safety.
“We’re afraid,” said a student by from Sumy Medical University. “We’ve been waiting for too long and we cannot wait anymore. We are risking our life. We are moving towards the border. If anything happens to us, all the responsibility will be on the government and Indian embassy".
Another video, also from the same group of people, shows students filling up buckets with ice as they ran out of drinking water.
The videos and the students’ warning has prompted the Indian Ministry of External Affairs to urge them against it.
"We are deeply concerned about Indian students in Sumy, Ukraine,” MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said. “Have strongly pressed Russian and Ukrainian governments through multiple channels for an immediate ceasefire to create a safe corridor for our students."
The promise has made the students call off their journey for now.
"We’d already started walking after we’d given up hope of the government coming to our rescue,” Md Nizamuddin Aman (21), a first-year MBBS student at Sumy State University. “But now with the new advisory, we're confused about whether we should take the risk at all. I’m so, so scared.”
The Ministry of External Affairs had issued a statement earlier in the day claiming that all stranded Indians have left Kharkiv and the 300 that remain in nearby Pesochin will be evacuated by Saturday night.
The statement acknowledged that evacuation from Sumy remained a challenge given the shelling.
"We will leave no stone unturned to ensure the safe evacuation of Indian students from Sumy," the Indian envoy to Ukraine said later in the evening.
Called ‘Operation Ganga’, India’s evacuation campaign involves sending flights to neighbouring countries Romania, Poland, Hungary, and Moldova as the Ukrainian airspace has been shut since February 24 due to the Russian military offensive.
The Indian embassy has issued several advisories asking students to leave war zones in the east and head to Ukraine’s western borders.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs, nearly 17,000 Indian nationals have left Ukraine's borders since advisories were issued over a fortnight back.
Ukraine and Russia have agreed to halt hostilities temporarily to help civilians leave conflict areas. And yet, as the war continued on for the 10th day, evacuation from conflict zones remains a challenge. Social media remains flooded with videos of desperate Indians seeking government intervention to help them out of the conflict-ridden east.
Russia on Wednesday said it is working "intensely" to create a "humanitarian corridor" for safe passage to Russian territory of Indian nationals stuck in Kharkiv, Sumy, and other conflict zones in Ukraine following a request from New Delhi.
An estimated 20,000 Indian nationals, mainly medical students, reside in Ukraine.
.@meaindia says almost all Indians have left #Kharkiv and remaining 300 students in nearby #Pesochin to be evacuated by tonight. Problem remains in #Sumy where main challenge is shelling, violence and lack of transportation. #UkraineRussianWar .@thetribunechd— Sandeep Dikshit (@sanfunhindu) March 5, 2022
VIDEO: Indian students at Sumy State University says this is their last video as they head to Mariupol, which is 600 km away. Russia has announced ceasefire in 2 cities. They say if anything happens to them govt and Indian embassy are responsible @DeccanHerald pic.twitter.com/i2S5sI01VB— Shemin (@shemin_joy) March 5, 2022
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