In north-eastern Ukraine’s Sumy, around 60 kilometres from Russia, stranded Indian students are sending SOS messages, seeking evacuation, amid increasing airstrikes.
“We can hear the sirens and the airstrikes. We have rushed to our bunkers now. We are amid high risk and uncertainty right now. We are closer to Russia. Moving to western part of Ukraine is impossible for us due to safety issues. We haven’t got any instructions or clearance from Ukraine government to move towards Russian border,” Swathil, a student at Sumy State Medical University told NDTV.
Around 700 Indian students have been stranded in Sumy and have been making repeated appeals for evacuations.
“We are stuck in this bunker for a long while now. We ran here after hearing a loud explosion outside. There are buses at the Russian border, an hour and a half away but how do we go from Ukraine till there amid this firing and no directions,” a third year medical student told NDTV.
“Right now there is no electricity. There is shortage of water. When we heard that loud bombardment sound, we just took our passport and ran into the bunkers. We were really so scared,” another woman student told NDTV through a video message, all seen huddled together in a bunker.
“Please take some immediate action, as soon as possible. Or else we will die for sure. There is already severe shortage of food and water,” one of the women is heard saying.
For many students who walked their way to Pisochyn from Kharkiv, based on an urgent advisory of the Indian government on Wednesday, the wait for evacuation continues amid panic.
“We are students of Kharkiv National Medical University. We are now stranded in Pisochyn. There is electricity, nothing here. No arrangements for bus or trains. There is no evacuation process here, neither any help from embassy. We don’t have any updates. We are totally stuck. It’s the agents that have provided us with some shelter. Nothing was provided by the embassy. They told us that we can be on the road. Please help us. We are stuck at this eastern border. We don’t even know if there will be any evacuation or not”, a student in a video message to NDTV said. He didn’t want his name disclosed.
“We have heard several blasts since morning. Please help us. We are stuck here. There are even several women with us,” another student in the video says. They claimed they were not allowed to make a video, but they did so with their mobile flash lights on, hoping that the government would hear them. There are over 300 students currently stranded at Pisochyn, awaiting assistance or directions from the Indian Embassy.
The government on Thursday said 3,000 Indians have been evacuated in 15 flights over the last 24 hours from war-hit Ukraine amid opposition criticism that the Centre has been slow in evacuating its citizens.
The Ministry of External Affairs said more flights have been scheduled to get students home under its evcuation programme called “Operation Ganga”.
The evacuation process, which began on February 22, has brought back over 6,200 persons so far, including 2,185 persons coming today through 10 special civilian flights, said a statement from the government.
More than 7,400 persons are expected to be brought through special flights in the next two days – while 3,500 citizens are expected to be brought back on Friday and over 3,900 on March 5.