An Indian student Rishabh, evacuated from crisis-hit Ukraine, arrives with his pet dog 'Malibu' at the Hindon Air Force Station, in Ghaziabad. (PTI Photo)
New Delhi: A growing number of stranded Indian students from war-torn Ukraine are returning with their furry friends, with some even taking risks and forgoing personal belongings in their bids to save the pets.
Such students who arrived in India on Sunday morning heaved a sigh of relief after rescuing their pets from the ravages of the ongoing Russian military operations in Ukraine.
Aashna, a student pursuing the MBBS course in Ukraine, arrived at the Delhi airport along with 182 other Indian nationals from Hungary's capital city Budapest on Sunday.
She was exultant with her pet dog 'Honey' rushing past the arrival zone of the Delhi airport. She expressed joy for reaching India safely along with her pet, and expressed gratitude to the government for launching 'Operation Ganga'.
A number of Indian students from Ukraine have not come alone but also brought their cats and dogs with them, refusing to leave their pets behind as the conflict in the war-torn country intensifies.
Expressing gratitude to authorities, Aashna who was rescued from Kharkiv, said, "Nobody stopped me to bring my dog to the flight. We took a GoAir flight. Usually, pets are allowed but as a one-time exemption, we were allowed to carry the pets in the cabin itself. Cabin crew were very helpful."
Recalling the ordeal of being stranded in conflict-hit Ukraine, she said that the situation is still getting worse with each passing day and some students are still stuck there.
"Four days before the war broke out, we just took all our documents, passport just in case we had to evacuate. We were very lucky that way. I had decided to bring Honey here. We didn't want to leave her there. She also has life," she said.
Vimal from Tamil Nadu, another evacuated medical student, brought three cats from Ukraine.
"It is so difficult to bring pets from there. But if you have documents, you can bring them back. Some students are leaving their pets on the streets there. I request them not to abandon their pets and bring them as soon as possible," he said.
Lauding the efforts of the Indian government, Vimal expressed gratitude to authorities for rescuing not just humans but animals as well.
"Government of India is really helping in the evacuation of pets even if you don't have any documents. These cats were with me for more than two years. I couldn't have left them behind. Without them, I wouldn't have come back," he said.
Earlier on Saturday, the Ministry of External Affairs said that over 13,300 people have returned to India so far under 'Operation Ganga' from crisis-ridden Ukraine. The Ministry also informed that almost all Indians have left Kharkiv city in Ukraine and the main focus of the government is to evacuate citizens from the Sumy area as it is challenging amid ongoing violence and lack of transportation.
The government has also deployed 'special envoys' to five neighbouring countries bordering Ukraine to coordinate and oversee the evacuation process of Indian nationals.
Russian forces launched military operations in Ukraine on February 24, three days after Moscow recognized Ukraine's breakaway regions - Donetsk and Luhansk - as independent entities.