Four Union Ministers will fly to Ukraine’s neighbouring countries to coordinate the evacuation of Indian students stranded in the middle of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, sources said today. Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a meeting with top ministers and officials this morning on the Ukraine crisis and Indians who are trying to leave Ukraine.
Ministers Hardeep Puri, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kiren Rijiju and VK Singh will travel to the countries surrounding Ukraine as special envoys of India to help with the evacuation.
“The PM said the safe evacuation of students is a priority,” sources said on the second such meeting called by PM Modi in two days. On Sunday evening, the Prime Minister had met with Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, among others.
Visuals of hundreds of Indians stuck at the Ukrainian borders have been emerging on social media.
Around 16,000 students are stuck in Ukraine, either at the borders, or hiding in bunkers, bomb shelters and hostel basements.
Opposition parties, mainly the Congress, have been sharing videos of students’ SOS and have accused the government of not arranging the smooth and safe passage of Indians.
A few students were able to fly out just before Russia launched its attack last Thursday and Ukraine shuts its airspace.
Those still in the country have been trying to make their way to the border so they can take Air India evacuation flights arranged from neighbouring countries like Romania, Hungary, Slovak Republic and Poland.
Many students who headed to the border on foot, in sub-zero temperatures, alleged that they were unable to cross over and had received hardly any help from officials.
The Indian Embassy in Ukraine said on Twitter on Saturday that Indian citizens should not move to any of the border posts without coordinating with government officials, using helpline numbers. The embassy had said it was difficult to help those who reached border checkpoints without informing them.
The embassy said staying in western cities of Ukraine with access to water, food, accommodation and basic amenities was relatively safer and advisable compared to reaching border checkpoints without any plan.
The first evacuation flight under what the government calls “Operation Ganga” arrived in Mumbai Saturday, bringing back 219 people from Bucharest. So far, five flights have arrived with students.
Indians who reached the Romania and Hungary borders hoped to be taken to Bucharest and Budapest by road so they could be flown back to India.