Indian students are now en route to the central Ukranian city of Poltava, from where they will board trains to western Ukraine so they can cross the border and be evacuated in flights to India. (Photo: Video Grab/ Twitter)
New Delhi: After the setting up of a humanitarian corridor from several Ukrainian cities, including Sumy, when Russia agreed to a ceasefire to allow trapped civilians to flee the fighting raging with Ukrainian forces, India on Tuesday evening announced it had successfully evacuated all Indian students from the embattled northeastern Ukrainian city of Sumy, said to number around 700. New Delhi said the Indian students are now en route to the central Ukranian city of Poltava, from where they will board trains to western Ukraine so they can cross the border and be evacuated in flights to India. The students were due to be taken in buses to Poltava.
The students were reportedly moved in an "evacuation convoy" from Sumy, that also included students from other nations.
There were some reports from Ukraine earlier on Tuesday that claimed shelling from Russian tanks had interrupted the evacuation process from Sumy during the day. It reportedly resumed later, but no confirmation of this was available. It was decided from the start to move the Indian students to western Ukraine instead of to the closer border with Russia as the students would have to cross only one front line manned by the Ukrainians on their way to western Ukraine. If they were taken instead to the Russian border which was much closer to Sumy, it would have meant crossing two battle lines manned by Russians and Ukrainians, which would have been more complex and difficult, given the volatile security situation in eastern Ukraine.
In a fresh advisory, India on Tuesday told its stranded nationals in Ukraine that the "establishment of the next humanitarian corridor is uncertain" and that "all stranded Indian nationals are urged to make use of this opportunity and evacuate using trains/vehicles or any other available means of transport, giving due consideration to safety".
The successful evacuation of Indian students from Sumy means India has finally overcome its most difficult challenge regarding the evacuation of its nationals from war-torn Ukraine. This also comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the need for safe evacuation of the 700 Indian students from Sumy.
India also started the process for evacuation of 75 Indian civilian sailors stranded in the Ukrainian seaport of Mykolaiv, with 52 Indian sailors being evacuated so far along with two Lebanese and three Syrian nationals. Efforts are on to evacuate the remaining 23 Indian sailors too, hopefully by late Tuesday.
After media reports emerged of an Indian student from Tamil Nadu studying in Ukraine who had joined Ukrainian forces in battle against the Russian troops, Indian diplomats were understood to be ascertaining details on the matter. This also came amid Ukrainian media reports that claimed foreigners from various nations, including India, were fighting alongside the Ukrainian forces against the Russians.
MEA spokesman Arindam Bagchi, meanwhile, tweeted Tuesday evening: "Happy to inform that we have been able to move out all Indian students from Sumy. They are currently en route to Poltava, from where they will board trains to western Ukraine. Flights under #OperationGanga are being prepared to bring them home."
On the 700 stranded Indian students in Sumy, the Indian embassy in Ukraine had earlier said one of its teams "is stationed in Poltava City to coordinate the safe passage of Indian students stranded in Sumy to the western borders via Poltava". It had said the "confirmed time and date (for evacuation) would be issued soon", and asked the students "to be ready to leave on short notice". Over 18,000 Indians have so far been evacuated back to India through 85 evacuation flights under Operation Ganga till now.