Police and security personnel inspect the remains of a shell in a street in Kyiv. (Photo: AFP)
New Delhi: Hours after Russia launched a scathing military attack on Ukraine, the Indian Embassy in Ukraine asked its citizens to maintain calm and remain safe wherever they were, noting that the current situation in the country was highly uncertain.
"Those traveling to Kyiv are advised to return to their respective cities temporarily," the Indian Embassy said, adding that it was functional despite the attacks, giving advisories that should be followed carefully. According to estimates, over 15,000 Indians are currently staying in Ukraine.
Image via @IndiainUkraine
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) held a series of high-level meetings to put into operation certain contingency plans in view of the rapidly changing situation in Ukraine.
Official sources said given that the Ukrainian airspace was closed for civilian aircraft, alternate evacuation routes are being activated to bring back the Indians, especially the students.
They said additional Russian speaking officials have been sent to the Indian embassy in Kyiv and are being deployed in countries neighbouring Ukraine.
Indian national carrier Air India, on February 19, announced that it would operate three flights between India and Ukraine on February 22, 24 and 26. The first flight, which operated on February 22, brought back around 240 people.
Air India's Thursday flight was scheduled to be the second flight to bring back Indians from the eastern European nation. However, due to the sudden closure of Ukrainian airports, the plane, which took off for Kyiv from New Delhi, returned back to its base on Thursday morning.
After the Air India flight had departed from Delhi on Thursday morning, the Ukrainian authorities issued a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen), which stated that flights of civil aircraft within Ukraine "are restricted due to potential hazard for civil aviation". Air India and the central government then decided to call back the plane to Delhi, officials said, adding that the plane took an about-turn in the Iranian airspace to return to Delhi.
Meanwhile, a Ukraine International Airlines flight from Kyiv landed at the Delhi airport at around 7.45 am on Thursday. "There were 182 Indian nationals onboard the flight and majority of them were students... A couple of more flights have been scheduled," Anju Wariah, Director at STIC Group, said.