Monday, December 05, 2022

Indian students trapped in Ukraine after Russian attack

New Delhi, India – An Indian student in Kharkiv, Aprit Katiyar, was watching news on his television screen about a possible invasion of Ukraine by Russia on Wednesday night, until he fell asleep at around 4:15 pm.

But the sleep of this 22-year-old girl did not last long.

“I fell asleep for about 45 minutes, when the sound of bombs woke me up at 5 a.m.,” Katiyar, from the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, told Al Jazeera. “I was frightened.”

Katiyar’s fear had come true.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in a televised statement early Thursday the launch of a “military operation” in the Donbass and called on Ukraine’s military to lay down arms.

Putin claimed the action was in response to threats coming from Ukraine, adding that Russia did not aim to take over the neighboring country.

Soon after the Russian bombing began, Ukraine closed its airspace to commercial flights.

During the past week, due to reports of a possible war between the two neighbours, many Indians have left Ukraine and gone back to their homes. Katiyar’s three fellow students and flatmate were among them – but he couldn’t afford to fly straight and was only able to book tickets for March 2.

“I had no idea everything would change so suddenly,” he said.

On Thursday evening, when the MBBS second year student spoke to Al Jazeera over the phone, he said he was taking shelter in a metro station. There were over 500 others as well, including some Indian students.

“We have taken shelter in a metro station to protect ourselves from the bombings,” he said.

Due to the closure of the airspace, an Air India flight sent for evacuation, which had taken off, had to be turned back.

Around 20,000 Indians are stranded in Ukraine, most of them students.

India on Thursday issued three advisories for its citizens in Ukraine. In the latest published in the evening, the Indian embassy in Kyiv said it was aware of air sirens and bomb warnings at various places.

“If you encounter such a situation, Google Maps has a list of nearby bomb shelters, many of which are located in underground metros,” it said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, the embassy told its people if they were going to Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, and to return to the cities where they live. It also said that it was making “alternative arrangements” to evacuate Indian nationals. ,

Another Indian student, 21-year-old Akanksha, is stuck in Ukraine. Her flight was also scheduled for March 2.

Akanksha, who gave only her first name, told Al Jazeera: “We have been asked to stay underground in the metro station in the wake of the bombing by Russia.”

“I don’t know how long we will be stuck here like this. Not getting any help from anyone. We are eating the biscuits and juice we brought with us at the metro station.

“Our families are so worried that they call us after every few minutes.”

According to sources quoted by Indian media, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to speak to Putin on Thursday. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s envoy to India Igor Polikha on Thursday called for India’s intervention, describing India as a “very influential global player” and said his country was seeking a “strong voice of India”.

As many parents receive frantic calls from their children studying in Ukraine, several Indian politicians urged the government to ensure the speedy evacuation of Indians stranded in the country.

A team from the Indian Embassy in Hungary has been sent to the Johanyi border post to provide assistance to help the Indians out of Ukraine.

team from [the] The Embassy of India in Hungary has been sent to the border post Zohanyi to coordinate and facilitate [the] The evacuation mission of Indians from Ukraine is working with the Hungarian government to provide all possible assistance,” the embassy said on Twitter, adding that the Indian government is closely monitoring the situation and evacuation plans are being worked out.

Back in Kharkiv, Kathiar is horrified at what might happen next.

“We don’t know what to do,” said Kathiyar. “We appeal to the Indian government to save us at the earliest.”

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