The call from the Indian Embassy in Ukraine, launched on Wednesday March 2 to its nationals, aroused fear. Written in capital letters, it called on all Indian students still in Kharkiv to « evacuate immediately » the city located in the east of Ukraine, even if it means covering about ten kilometers on foot. The death of a medical student the day before in Kharkiv had already deeply moved the country: Naveen, 21, was the victim of a Russian bombardment on Tuesday, when he went out to buy provisions. Another was shot and wounded on Sunday as he tried to flee the capital, kyiv.
Before the Russian offensive, more than 20,000 Indians were in Ukraine. Most are middle-class medical students who have chosen this country, in particular because this course is more affordable there than in India. The poignant testimonies of these thousands of students, stranded in difficult conditions, continue to flow. And their loved ones are begging the government to bring them back safe and sound.
“Evacuate us, please. We want to go home,” begs Mohammed Mehtab Reza, a fourth-year medical student stranded in Sumy, eastern Ukraine, about 40 kilometers from the Russian border. The young man, contacted Thursday by telephone, claims to have had no news from his embassy for four days. « We can’t leave the city, the tanks are in the streets, we hear gunfire and air attacks, » he continues, in tears, before hanging up to take shelter in the basement.
Indians and Nigerians taken to task
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone on Wednesday about the evacuation of Indian citizens. The Russian side “in particular trying to organize an emergency evacuation of a group of Indian students from Kharkiv via a humanitarian corridor” to Russia, according to the Kremlin. Russian authorities claimed that these students were forcibly detained in Ukraine and used as human shields. An accusation denied by India, which welcomed the help provided by the Ukrainian authorities.
A large part of the Indians of Ukraine and more than 10,000 others have been brought back to India from Romania, Hungary, Poland or Slovakia, as part of a vast evacuation operation called Ganga. Four ministers from Narendra Modi’s government were dispatched to these countries bordering Ukraine on Monday to coordinate repatriation efforts.
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