India conveyed its “deep concerns” to Ukraine and Russia on Sunday, February 27, over the safety of its nationals in various Ukrainian cities and explored new options of evacuating them from the conflict zones, using alternative land routes.Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said India has also approached the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva and requested it to be cognisant of the security interests of the Indian citizens and escort them out, wherever possible, when it starts its operation in Ukraine.
At a media briefing, Shringla said India has evacuated around 2,000 of its citizens from Ukraine and 1,000 of them have been brought back home on chartered flights from Hungary and Romania.Shringla said he called on the envoys of Russia and Ukraine separately and conveyed to them India’s deep concerns on the safety and security of the Indian nationals stuck in Ukraine.
“The Ministry of External Affairs, under the direct supervision of the external affairs minister and the overall guidance of the prime minister, is doing everything possible to make sure the safety, security and interests of our citizens in Ukraine are given the highest priority,” he said.
In a related development, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar spoke to his Moldovian counterpart Nicu Popescu and sought support for facilitating the entry of Indians on the Ukraine-Moldova border.In a tweet, Jaishankar said a team of officials from the MEA will reach there on Monday.
Separately, Polish envoy to India Adam Burakowski said his government will allow entry into Poland without the requirement of visa to the Indians who escaped the “Russian aggression” in Ukraine.On his meetings with the ambassadors of Ukraine and Russia, Shringla said he conveyed to them India’s “deep concerns about the safety and security of the Indian citizens, particularly students”.
“We have shared the locations where the Indian students and citizens are concentrated for ensuring their protection.Both the ambassadors did take note of our concerns and assured us that they are very cognizant of the safety and security of Indian citizens,” he said.
“My conversation with both the Ukrainian as well as the Russian ambassador was reassuring and I think I got every sense that we will get their fullest support when it comes to the interest and well-being of our citizens in Ukraine,” the Foreign Secretary said.
He said India has also contacted the ICRC in Geneva and that it is commencing its operation in Ukraine.”We have told them to please make sure that as and when they start their operation, they should be cognisant of the needs of our citizens and wherever possible, escort them out,” Shringla said, adding that India is going to share with the ICRC the locations of the main areas where Indians are concentrated.
He said though the border crossings to Hungary and Romania are functioning, the exit point to Poland has been clogged with lakhs of Ukrainians and foreign nationals and that many Indian citizens are also stuck there.
“Many of our people have been there for a long time and I think they are in a very very difficult situation.We fully empathise and work round the clock to see what option we can provide them,” the Foreign Secretary said.
He said the main concern for India is ensuring the safety of its nationals stuck in the areas witnessing intense fighting, including in the capital Kyiv which has around 2,000 Indians.Shringla said some Indians are also stuck in the eastern cities of Kharkiv, Sumy and Odesa, adding that efforts are on to ensure their security and evacuation.
“We are aware of a number of Indian citizens, particularly students, who continue to be in cities in the east and south-east of Ukraine,” he added.
“Unfortunately, these areas continue to be live conflict areas and it is generally deemed unsafe for people to move around freelyWe will try to find suitable evacuation modalities for them once feasible,” Shringla said.
He said Indians in these areas have been advised not to move around and to seek shelter in bunkers and other facilities.He said the option of evacuating people around Uzhhorod, near the border with Hungary and Slovakia, is being explored, using a rail route to Budapest.Shringla said when Jaishankar spoke to the Moldovian foreign minister, he was very reassuring.
“I think, we should be able to use that route to facilitate the evacuation of our citizens from that area of southwestern Ukraine,” he said, adding that MEA teams will be in place in Moldova on Monday morning.Shringla said a team from the Indian embassy in Moscow has been sent.”We will do everything possible to get our people out.Our teams are working flat out to get that objective achieved,” he added.
Shringla said the Indian embassy in Ukraine has suggested that those located in the eastern areas, including Kyiv, should start moving westwards to avoid the areas of increasing conflict and should come near the border points.
India on Friday managed to set up camp offices in Lviv and Chernivtsi towns in western Ukraine to facilitate the transit of Indians to Hungary, Romania and Poland.
It also positioned teams of officials at the Zahony border post in Hungary, Krakowiec as well as the Shehyni-Medyka land border points in Poland, Vysne Nemecke in the Slovak Republic and the Suceava transit point in Romania to coordinate the exit of Indians from Ukraine.