Russia-Ukraine crisis: Dubai-bound students were at Kiev airport when it was attacked

Some students, who were to fly to Dubai, are stranded in Ukraine as Russian forces launched an attack.


Sahim Salim

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Published: Thu 24 Feb 2022, 1:52 PM

Last updated: Thu 24 Feb 2022, 9:47 PM

Two students, who were returning to Dubai as Russia-Ukraine tensions rose over the last few days, were at the Kiev airport on Thursday when Russian forces attacked the Eastern European country.

The Indian boys, Mohammed Raihan Thufail and Fawaz Nasser, said they were at the check-in counter of the airport when the airline cancelled the process, citing technical issues.

“I then heard an explosion, but was unaware that it was an attack. Security forces started evacuating us to safety. They created a path for us to get out of the airport safely,” Mohammed told Khaleej Times over the phone from Kiev.

Fawaz said he heard some explosions at the airport. “Airport authorities announced that we had to evacuate. We must have walked some two to three kilometres, before we reached safety. We then took a cab and went back to our hostel.”

Mohammed added: “I did not see fires or anything, but heard explosions.”


Some students, who were to fly to Dubai, are stranded in Ukraine as Russian forces launched an attack. Three UAE airlines - flydubai, Air Arabia and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi - have suspended flights to Ukraine temporarily as the country shut its airspace to civilian flights, citing a high risk to safety.

Ukraine is a popular higher education destination for students from the UAE, especially those pursuing medical studies.

Mohammed and Fawaz are first-year MBBS students at Bogomolets National Medical University. They had arrived in Kiev just three months ago after completing their schooling in the UAE.

Mohammed said his concerned family have told him to remain vigilant and follow the Indian Embassy’s directives. “We are exploring all options to return,” the boy said.

India is closely monitoring the rapidly changing situation in Ukraine.

In an advisory, the Indian Embassy in Kiev said the schedule for special flights stands cancelled as Ukrainian airspace is closed.

“Alternative arrangements are being made for evacuation of Indian nationals,” the embassy said in the advisory. “Embassy will convey information as soon as such arrangements are finalised so that Indian nationals can relocate to the western part of the country. Please carry your passports and necessary documents … at all times.”

‘Heard an explosion’

Another student, Shahin Shihab, said he was sleeping in his hostel when he woke up to the sound of a loud explosion. “After a while, a senior banged on our door, telling us that the airport was attacked.”

The second-year MBBS student, whose family is based in Dubai, said he was to fly to Cochin, India, today.

“I could not book a ticket to Dubai as my passport was nearing expiry. So, I was planning to travel to India, renew my passport and then fly to Dubai to my family,” the boy told Khaleej Times over the phone from Kiev.

Shahin, who completed his schooling from Dubai, said till yesterday, they were not anticipating an attack.


“We did follow the news, but we never imagined that an attack would happen. Nonetheless, we all had packed our bags and were readying to fly out. And now we are stranded,” the boy said.

He said many students choose to pursue MBBS from Ukraine as it is more affordable, compared to other universities abroad.

Russian forces on Thursday fired missiles at several Ukrainian cities and landed troops on its south coast after President Vladimir Putin authorised what he called a special military operation in the east.

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