"A student Naveen Shekarappa Gyanagoudar, a native of Chalageri in Haveri district, died in the shelling," the Karnataka State Disaster Management Authority commissioner Dr Manoj Rajan told reporters. (Image: Twitter/NasirKhuehami)
New Delhi: The nation’s worst fears came true on Tuesday as an Indian student was killed during intense shelling by the Russian military in Kharkiv. Naveen Shekharappa Gyanagoudar, 21, a fourth-year medical student from Bengaluru, died when splinters hit him as the Russians bombed a nearby government building, the Kharkiv governor’s house. Naveen had gone to buy food items in a nearby supermarket when the tragedy struck. As the Russian forces moved towards Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, the Indian embassy in Ukraine asked all its nationals to leave the city immediately as the government scrambled to organise safe passage for its citizens. About 4,000 Indian students are still in Kharkiv, while almost all have left Kyiv now.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired yet another meeting on Tuesday evening on the Ukraine situation. Foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the PM conveyed his deep anguish over the loss of life of an Indian. The PM also spoke to the student’s family in Karnataka.
"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. The foreign secretary is calling in the ambassadors of Russia and Ukraine to reiterate our demand for urgent safe passage for Indian nationals who are still in Kharkiv and other cities in the conflict zone. Similar action is also being taken by our ambassadors in Russia and Ukraine," MEA spokesman Arindam Bagchi said on Tuesday.
"We had already taken up with the Russian and Ukrainian embassies the pressing requirement of safe passage for Indian nationals, including students, from Kharkiv and other cities in the conflict zone. This demand has been repeatedly made of Russia and Ukraine since the beginning of this conflict on February 24. It has been conveyed to both ambassadors in New Delhi as well as taken up in their capitals. From the Indian side, the preparations for evacuation have been in place for some time now. An Indian team has been positioned in the Russian city of Belgorod, close to the Ukrainian border. However, the conflict situation in and around Kharkiv and nearby cities has been an obstacle. Therefore, it is imperative that Russia and Ukraine respond to our need for safe passage urgently," sources said.
The sources said the deteriorating situation in Kharkiv was a matter of grave concern and the safety and security of Indian nationals in that city was of utmost priority to the government.
The Indian embassy in Kyiv has shut down and the ambassador and the staff are on their way to western part of the country, the sources said. "It’s a fluid situation. Our interlocutors will press to allow us to evacuate. We remain concerned about the situation. During our conversation with the Russian and Ukrainian governments, we emphasised the need to protect Indian students and reiterated the demand in Kyiv and Moscow too for urgent safe passage for Indian nationals. The evacuation from Kharkiv remains our top priority. While 60 per cent of Indians have left the zone, of the 40 per cent left, half are in conflict zones while the other half have moved towards the western borders. All our nationals have left Kyiv as per our information," the foreign secretary said.
He added another 1,400 Indians in Zaporizhia had left for the western borders while at Moldova 400 students have crossed over. An Indian embassy office is being set up at Lviv in Ukraine. In the next few days, 26 more flights, including by IAF’s C-17 aircraft, have been scheduled to bring the Indians back home.
The sources said that in places where the conflict has not endangered movement, several Indians have been evacuated. More than 9,000 have been already brought out of Ukraine, while a considerable number are now in the safer areas.
On India abstaining during the vote at the UN Security Council meeting on the resolutions against Russia, Mr Shringla said: "In the UN we take positions that are based on careful considerations and certainly we do regard the merits of each and every case that comes before us. There are a number of resolutions that have emanated and we will take decisions based on their entirety and on careful consideration of our best interest."
India’s permanent representative at the UN in New York T.S. Tirumurti told a rare emergency special session of the UN General Assembly on Ukraine convened on Monday that New Delhi was doing whatever it can to undertake an immediate and urgent evacuation efforts of Indian nationals still stranded in Ukraine.
"India is deeply concerned that the situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate. We reiterate our call for immediate cessation of violence and an end to hostilities," Mr Tirumurti said. "My government firmly believes there is no other choice but to return to the path of diplomacy," he said.
Mr Tirumurti noting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had advocated this strongly in his recent conversations with the leaderships of Russia and Ukraine. "We reiterate our firm conviction that all differences can only be bridged through honest, sincere and sustained dialogue," he said.