Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Sunday said that the government of India has launched a multi-prong evacuation plan titled 'Operation Ganga' to evacuate Indian citizens stranded in Ukraine, adding that thousands of Indian citizens have been flown out of the conflict-ridden country.
As intense fighting is underway in Kharkiv, Sumy and Kyiv, Mr Shringla held a special briefing on 'Operation Ganga' and said, "Under Op Ganga, thousands of our citizens have been flown out of Romania and Hungary and another thousand have been evacuated from Ukraine through the land routes. Thousand of our students crossed over from Ukraine into zones conducive for their evacuation by air route back to India."
The government of India has launched a multi-prong evacuation plan titled 'Operation Ganga' to evacuate Indian citizens stranded in Ukraine.
The India Government is bearing the cost of evacuation given the emergency situation prevailing. Indian Embassy in Kyiv as well as the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi issued a number of advisories prior to the situation developing, requesting Indian citizens to leave Ukraine.
"4,000 of our nationals left before the conflict pursuant to these advisories. We estimated at that time 15,000 of our citizens were left in Ukraine when Op Ganga commenced. Since the air space in Ukraine was closed after the conflict commence, we identified land evacuation options through four neighbouring countries- Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia," said the Foreign Secretary.
Specific border crossing points were identified with each of these countries and the MEA had deployed teams, Russian-speaking officers to go there and assist in the evacuation process.
"We had also asked our Embassy in Kyiv and they established a 24X7 control room and we had done the same in our ministry in Delhi," said Mr Shringla.
He also said that flights for these evacuees are being organized and the details will be shared in a short while, adding, "I will show you the flights which we have planned over the next 24-48 hours."
Mr Shringla further said that border crossing to Hungary and Romania are functioning, however, the exit point to Poland has been clogged as lakhs of Ukrainian and foreign nationals are trying to leave the country from that point.
"This is a problem area. We have tried to calibrate the evacuation plans taking into account the experience on the ground, certain border crossings are more effective, some are obviously problematic. Those who are near the borders with Hungary, Romania and Slovak Republic are guided towards respective border points in phases," said Mr Shringla.
Talking about the difficulty regarding the ongoing military operation of Russia in Ukraine, he said, "Our Embassy in Kyiv is operational, obviously, austerities in the area are making regular activity difficult. We are aware of the number of Indian citizens, particularly students, who continue to be in cities in the east of Ukraine and southeast Ukraine. Unfortunately, these areas continue to be in conflict areas and it is generally deemed unsafe for people to move around freely. We will try to find suitable evacuation modalities for them. Once feasible, our Embassy in Kyiv will try to maintain contact, we have also tried to maintain contact daily. We keep issuing advisories to them as we go along."