While Russia, in a last-minute thaw on Wednesday, eased tensions by withdrawing some of its troops at the Russia-Ukraine border, the struggle to get back home for the nearly 20,000 Indians living in Ukraine are far from over. Most of them are students in the capital city, Kyiv.
The Indian government has stepped up talks with several airlines on increasing the number of flights from Ukraine to facilitate the return of Indians wishing to leave the eastern European nation. “We are aware that many Indian students are currently in Ukraine, and their families are anxious about them, particularly about getting flights to India,” stated an official from the ministry of aviation.
Control rooms are being established in the Indian embassy in Kyiv and in the external affairs ministry to respond to queries of Indian nationals in Ukraine and their families in India.
The Indian embassy in Kyiv, had on Tuesday, asked Indians in Ukraine, especially students, to consider leaving and to avoid non-essential travel within the country amid persisting fears of an invasion. There are more than 20,000 Indians in Ukraine, including professionals, businessmen and some 18,000 students. Some students have expressed concern about all flights to India being fully booked till next week and an increase in air fares because of the prevailing situation in Ukraine.
Rajya Sabha MP and Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi called on the government to facilitate the evacuation of Indians, especially students, from Ukraine. “Indian students are facing difficulties in leaving the country following the Indian government’s advisory to return to India temporarily. Flights booked are being cancelled while many others are unable to afford tickets back home as the prices are exorbitant,” she tweeted.
The advisory called on Indians to keep the embassy informed about the “status of their presence in Ukraine to enable the embassy to reach them when required.” The US has claimed Russia has amassed more than 130,000 troops near the border with Ukraine, and American officials have repeatedly said in recent days that an invasion could happen as early as this week.
India has so far refrained from criticising Russia’s actions along the border with Ukraine in view of the close strategic relations between New Delhi and Moscow. It has pushed for a peaceful resolution of the situation in Ukraine through sustained diplomatic efforts.