Around 500 Indian students are stranded in Sumy, a town in eastern Ukraine just two hours away from the Russian border. As Indian evacuation efforts focus on western Ukraine, the students from Sumy have sent an urgent appeal for help, saying it is not possible for them to make the 20-hour journey to the west, since train tracks are busted and the road route is full of landmines, at least up to Kyiv.
“We are requesting the Indian embassy to rescue us as soon as possible,” said one of the five students who sent a video appeal to NDTV.
“It is practically impossible and very dangerous for us to travel to the western border of Ukraine,” said Anju Tojo, a final year student of Sumy Medical University. “The only option is to evacuate us to the Russian border. So I request the Indian in Moscow to get us evacuated embassy,” she said.
The road journey is not safe and the railway tracks in Sumy are damaged, the students said. “There are landmines from Sumy to Kyiv,” added one student.
Sumy is around 200 km away from Kharkiv, which faced the brunt of Russian attack today. An Indian student died in the shelling. With the Russian military action set to intensify in the coming days, the students say they are in a desperate situation.
“We are spending our nights in the bunker (in college). It is very cold there. There is frequent shelling and attacks in our city. Even the civilians are armed. There is food and water shortage,” said another student, pointing to their light.
While India has planned to operate 26 flights to evacuate citizens over the next three days, all of these will take off from nations sharing border with Ukraine in the west.
Under the “Mission Ganga” plans, there are 46 flights till March 8, of which 29 will take off from Bucharest, 10 from Budapest, six from Poland’s Rzeszow, and one from Slovakia’s Kocise. The Air Force will operate one flight from Bucharest.
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla today said, “We remain very concerned about the situation in Kharkiv, Sumy and other conflict zones in Ukraine”.
“Earlier this afternoon, I separately called in the Ambassadors of Russia and Ukraine. I strongly reiterated our demand for urgent safe passage for all Indian nationals who are still in Kharkiv and other cities in the conflict area,” Mr Shringla added.