Russian missiles pounded Ukraine's capital Kyiv on Friday, families cowered in shelters and authorities told residents to prepare Molotov cocktails to defend the city from an assault that began on Thursday. The invasion could drive up to five million people to flee abroad, UN aid agencies said on Friday, adding that at least 100,000 people are already uprooted in the country and fuel, cash and medical supplies are running low.
Caught amid the war are thousands of Indian students, who went to Ukraine to study. A majority of these are medical students.
Why do Indian students go to Ukraine?
According to website ‘Study In Ukraine', a large number of students come to Ukraine because it is cheaper to pursue medical education there. It also said that the degrees earned in Ukraine are recognised across the world, including in World health Organization (WHO), European Council and other global bodies.
Further, there are chances of permanent residence and settlement in Europe after completion of the study programme in Ukraine, the website said.
Apart from medical courses, some Indian students are also enrolled in engineering courses in Ukraine.
How many Indian students are there in Ukraine?
According to the website of Ukraine's Ministry of Education and Science, there are more than 20,000 Indian nationals in Ukraine, and 18,000 of them are students. They constitute the largest group out of the nearly 76,000 foreign students studying in Ukraine.
Since the war began, around 4,000 Indians have been able to leave Ukraine, but 16,000 are still stranded.
The state governments have urged the Centre to ensure students stuck in the war-torn country are safely evacuated.
What Indian students are facing?
Many Indian students have shared posts on social media from shelters like underground metro stations and basements amid bombings and missile attacks by Russian forces.
Speaking to NDTV, one of these students, Suminder, said she and the others hiding in the basement could hear continuous bombing outside.
"We are really close to the border. I hear explosions. We are not even going out," she said.
What the central government is doing?
The government is trying to organise evacuation flights for Indians stuck in Ukraine from neighbouring countries. Teams are heading to Ukraine's borders with Hungary and Poland to try and bring back its citizens.
Many organisations, like the Indian Medical Association (IMA), have appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help bring back young medical students stranded in Ukraine on priority, saying most of them cannot afford the escalated costs of air travel following a Russian military offensive.
A petition has also been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Centre to take immediate and effective steps for safe return of stranded students from Ukraine.
Ukraine shut its airspace shortly after Russia declared war on the country and launched an attack in major cities.
An Air India flight to Ukraine capital Kyiv made a u-turn and returned to Delhi yesterday.