Uraine Crisis: Foreign Ministry has claimed that officials are in regular touch with students in Sumy.
India's foreign ministry today said that it has "strongly pressed" the Russian and Ukrainian governments through multiple channels for an immediate ceasefire to create a safe corridor for its students stranded amidst the raging war in Ukraine. It also claimed that the ministry and Indian embassies are in regular touch with the students, who have been posting desperate and emotional pleas to be evacuated from the conflict-stricken region.
"Have advised our students to take safety precautions, stay inside shelters and avoid unnecessary risks," said Arindam Bagchi, official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs.
This comes soon after Indian students stranded in northeast Ukraine's Sumy city shared videos saying they have decided to take a risky journey to the Russian border that's 50 kilometres away. In what they claimed would be their "last video" from Sumy, they said the Indian government and its embassy in Ukraine would be responsible if anything happened to them.
The students have, however, decided not to leave after they were contacted by the embassy.
In the video from the Sumy State University campus, a large group of students could be seen standing in the snow, packed and ready to leave. They were holding several Indian flags.
"Since morning, we have been constantly listening to boarding, shelling and streetfights. We are afraid, we have waited a lot and we can't wait anymore. We are risking our lives and moving towards the border. If anything happens to us, all the responsibility will be of the government and the Indian embassy. If anything happens to anyone, Mission Ganga will be the biggest failure," one of the students says in the video.
"Please pray for us...This is our last video," another student adds.
Students from the University have been constantly posting videos highlighting the dire situations they have been forced to brave. In a video from one of the hostels, students were seen collecting snow to melt for water.
They say about 800-900 Indian students have been confined in the hostels of the Medical Institute of Sumy State University for over a week and have nearly run out of food and water.
They have no leads for an evacuation and have already issued an appeal to the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying, "We'll all be killed".
"Nothing has been done for us. We have seen some foreign students leave Sumy on their own, but they were shot. We have videos to show it," an Indian student said in one of the messages. Behind him, about a hundred students are standing, all looking worried.
The Indian embassy last week warned of intense fighting in Kharkiv, Sumy and Kyiv. Reports say trains and buses have stopped running in Sumy, roads and bridges out of the city have been destroyed, and there is heavy street fighting.
Russia today informed the UN Security Council that Russian buses are ready at crossing points to go to the eastern Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv and Sumy to evacuate Indian students and other foreign nationals who are stranded there.
"In the Belgorod region of Russia, 130 comfortable buses have been waiting (and standing ready) since 6:00 am today at the crossing points 'Nekhoteevka' and 'Sudja' ready to go to Kharkiv and Sumy to evacuate the Indian students and other foreign nationals," Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said.
The Russian envoy said that the checkpoints are equipped to provide temporary accommodation, space for rest, and hot food. There are also mobile medical stations with a stock of medications.
"Everyone evacuated will then be taken to Belgorod, and from there transported to their homeland by air," he said.
The Indian embassy in Ukraine today said it's exploring "all possible mechanisms" to evacuate them safely and securely. In a Tweet early morning, it said it has discussed evacuation and identification of exit routes with all interlocutors including the international humanitarian organisation Red Cross.
"Exploring all possible mechanisms to evacuate Indian citizens in Sumy, safely & securely. Discussed evacuation & identification of exit routes with all interlocuters including Red Cross. Control room will continue to be active until all our citizens are evacuated. Be Safe Be Strong," it said.
At least 1,000 Indians - 700 in Sumy and 300 in Kharkiv - are still stranded in conflict zones in eastern Ukraine, the government said on Friday, adding that arranging buses to evacuate them was proving to be the biggest challenge right now.