Russia-Ukraine crisis: 4,000 Indian citizens have left Ukraine, minister says

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said that the Indian Embassy in Kyiv continues to be functional.



ANI
ANI

By ANI

Published: Thu 24 Feb 2022, 11:58 PM

Last updated: Thu 24 Feb 2022, 11:59 PM

Asserting that the safety and security of Indian nationals is the topmost priority of the government, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Thursday said that about 4,000 Indian nationals have left Ukraine in the past few days and Indian Embassy in Ukraine continues to be functional.

Addressing a media briefing on the Ukraine situation, Shringla said a number of steps have been taken to deal with the emerging situation in Ukraine, including the contingencies that can arise.

“About 4,000 Indian nationals have already left Ukraine in the past few days. Our Embassy in Ukraine continues to be functional and is rendering all assistance possible to Indian nationals, notwithstanding, the complicated and evolving situation. We started the registration of Indian nationals in Ukraine about a month ago. Our embassy anticipated the need to connect and be in contact with all Indian students in Kiev,” he said.

Shringla said that based on online registration, it was found that 20,000 Indian nationals were there in Ukraine.

He said the Ministry of External Affairs has taken a number of measures to facilitate flights out of Ukraine and this included removing the cap on the number of passengers that could fly out which was enforced by the civil aviation authorities of both countries.

“There were 440 numbers that could fly every week, that cap was removed. We also ensured that the number of flights was augmented rapidly from about twice a week to two flights a day. We should also remember that there were a number of other options available through flights to Dubai, Istanbul and other places from Kiev,” Shringla said.

The Foreign Secretary also said that the Indian Embassy in Ukraine issued a number of advisories in recent days.

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“Today itself it had issued three advisories that provided advise to Indian nationals on the situation as it evolves - travel towards safer places in the Western part of the country that will facilitate the exit by road, and other means, safety precautions that our citizens need to take, etc,” he said.

“We are consulting universities, student contractors in the process of providing for the welfare and safety of our students,” he added.

Shringla said an MEA control room has been set up in Delhi that has been operational for the past seven-eight days.

“Over 20 officers are manning this and are working on a 24X7 basis. At least 980 calls were answered and 850 emails were entertained today. Our Embassy in Kiev has also set up a 24X7 helpline centre. Another measure we have taken is that we have despatched Russian speaking officers to Kiev and to the countries neighbouring Ukraine. Some of these officers have already reached and are functioning, some will be reaching shortly,” Shringla said.

“We have also asked our embassies and ambassadors in the countries neighbouring Ukraine to send a team of officers to border areas to facilitate the exit of Indian nationals from Ukraine, permit them to come into their countries so that they can be safely evacuated to India,” he added.

Shringla said teams are on their way to Zahony border post in Hungary, the land border along with Ukraine and Poland, Slovak Republic land border with Ukraine, and the land border of Ukraine and Romania.

Regarding the reluctance of Indian students to return to India in wake of offline classes, Shringla said, “One important step we have taken a number of our students were reluctant to leave because the universities authorities said that classes must be offline. We have now persuaded all the universities, institutions to allow online classes. Therefore, students can now leave without having to face the strain of not being able to miss out on their classes.

He said India had done preparations according to the “evolving and complicated situations” to evacuate the Indian nationals from Ukraine.

“It is a complicated situation. Due to the evolving situation, we may think that the action could have been taken earlier also. We had done preparations according to the evolving and complicated situation. We also have to see that the students who despite issuing an advisory, were seeing if they would miss their classes if they are conducted offline,” Shringla said.

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“We were in touch with them and issued advisory. The ones who wanted to get out of there got out. The ones who had to be facilitated, we facilitated them. If we see the advisory that was issued on February 15, we had said that non-residential Indian citizens could leave the country. We had issued an advanced notice. The situation that stands today is because of the evolving situation. We will handle the evacuation arrangements of our citizens,” he said.

Shringla’s response came in response to a query about opposition parties stating that the evacuation process of Indians in Ukraine was delayed.

Asked about the safety of the routes decided for the evacuation of the Indians stranded in Ukraine, Shringla said the safe routes have been identified and the government is sending teams to facilitate citizens on their way out of Ukraine.

“The safe routes have been identified. By road, if you go from Kiev, you would reach Poland in nine hours and Romania in nearly 12 hours. The road has been mapped out. We are sending teams who will be present there so that we can provide help to our citizens,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday recognized Ukraine’s breakaway regions - Donetsk and Luhansk - as independent entities escalating the ongoing tensions between the two countries. Ukraine gained independence in 1991 after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Putin said on Thursday morning that special military operations are being launched “to protect” the people in the Donbas region. He also warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to “consequences”.


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