The Russian and Ukrainian ambassadors have been called in by the government to reiterate India’s demand for ‘urgent safe passage for Indian nationals still in Kharkiv and other conflict zones’, the External Affairs Ministry said Tuesday afternoon. The statement comes amid news an Indian student has died amid shelling in Kharkiv – Ukraine’s second largest city and the site of fierce fighting.
“(The) Foreign Secretary is calling in Ambassadors of Russia and Ukraine to reiterate our demand for urgent safe passage for Indian nationals who are still in Kharkiv and cities in other conflict zones. Similar action is also being undertaken by our Ambassadors in Russia and Ukraine,” Bagchi tweeted.
Minutes earlier he posted: “With profound sorrow we confirm that an Indian student lost his life in shelling in Kharkiv this morning. The Ministry is in touch with his family. We convey our deepest condolences to the family.”
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Earlier today, several Indian students in Kharkiv took to social media to say a student – believed to be from Karnataka – had died while trying to find food.
Also earlier today, a video tweeted by an Ukrainian minister, Emine Dzheppar, showed what seems to be a Russian missile strike on a stately building in Kharkiv’s Freedom Square.
“Russian missile hits Freedom Square, right in the centre of Kharkiv. More and more innocent civilians become victims of Russian barbaric actions. #StopWarInUkraine. (sic),” he tweeted.
The exact number of Indian students in Kharkiv is unclear at this stage; estimates range from 2,000 to 4,000. Evacuation has been difficult, particularly after Ukraine closed its airspace to civilian flights last week and rail and public transport in many places has been disrupted, if not completely stopped.
Earlier today the embassy in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, advised all Indian citizens to leave the city ‘urgently’. The warning was sent after confirmation that a massive convoy of Russian forces is closing in on the city.
“All Indian nationals including students are advised to leave Kyiv urgently today. Preferably by available trains or through any other means available,” the embassy said in a brief advisory posted on Twitter.
Satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies shows the convoy stretches for almost 64 km, and includes hundreds of armoured vehicles, tanks, towed artillery and logistics vehicles.