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Govt launches Operation Ganga to rescue Indians stuck in Ukraine

The International Council of the Red Cross (ICRC), which deals with conflict-torn regions, will start operations from Monday and India is in close touch with it

Ukraine crisis

As Air India ferries hundreds of Indians stranded in Ukraine, the cost of operating a two-way evacuation flight will be more than Rs 1.10 crore and the amount will go up, depending on the duration of the flights

Aditi Phadnis New Delhi
To quicken the process of rescuing the Indians stranded in Ukraine, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, as part of Operation Ganga, on Sunday outlined new steps, including opening fresh exit points judged safe for them to leave the country.

The government will pay for the operation entirely. Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to this in Varanasi during an election campaign meeting, where he said India was making every effort to get its citizens out of Ukraine.

However, India continued to stay neutral on the conflict and suspended judgement on who was responsible for the war. Foreign Minister S Jaishankar has been in touch with his equivalent in Moldova, which has a border with Ukraine. He has also spoken to ministers in neighbouring countries.

The exit route from Moldova is less choked than the ones from Poland, which are jammed by Ukrainians seeking to flee from the war. Shringla said around 4,000 Indians were in the Kharkiv and Sumy regions in East Ukraine, as well as Odessa and the Crimea, where fighting is most intense.

These regions are also close to the Russian border, just at a distance of 70 km, and teams from the Indian embassy are at the border points, ready to evacuate Indians as soon as a window opens and there is respite from the fighting.

A direct train from Kyiv to the Hungarian border is another option, he suggested. Shringla said he spoke to the envoys of Russia and Ukraine separately and expressed concern about Indian students, asking both to direct the forces in the warring countries to ensure protection. Both reassured him that steps would be taken to make sure the Indians were not harmed.

“We’re asking citizens to move westwards. Take a train, then take the most appropriate border staging points and then leave the country. There are teams from our embassies in all the countries to ensure you exit in an orderly and safe manner,” he said at a special briefing.

Earlier, the government had circulated the mobile phone numbers of officials who are part of the teams. This has been replaced with a hotline, which can be tapped to connect every caller to the most appropriate border point team.

Shringla said four flights had been run and two more will leave on Monday. Private airlines like IndiGo are arranging flights to Budapest, capital of Hungary, via Istanbul, capital of Turkey.

“Our plan is to ensure that as citizens mass together, flights are made ready and all aircraft are ready to go at short notice,” Shringla said.

The International Council of the Red Cross (ICRC), which deals with conflict-torn regions, will start operations from Monday and India is in close touch with it.


As Air India ferries hundreds of Indians stranded in Ukraine, the cost of operating a two-way evacuation flight will be more than Rs 1.10 crore and the amount will go up, depending on the duration of the flights.

The airline is operating the services with wide-body Boeing 787 plane, better known as Dreamliner, from countries including Romania and Hungary. “The government has chartered these flights and the cost of the flights henceforth will be met by the government,” Shringla said.

However, Shringla was cautious about offering help to either country to act as honest broker. Turkey and Azerbaijan have offered their services to both countries as moderators.

“We don’t want war,” Shringla said, echoing the prime minister, who told President Vladimir Putin on the phone the differences between Russia and the NATO group could be resolved only through honest and sincere dialogue.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, while campaigning in Ballia, said: “India is peace-lover. India has never attacked any country and never grabbed the land of other country. We want world peace and everyone should accept it.”

This has angered and disappointed Ukraine. Former Congress minister and Maharashtra leader Prithviraj Chavan said he had got calls from students from his state in Ukraine, trying to exit from the border through Poland, that Ukraine police attacked them for India’s neutral stance.

Chavan said the students told him the police beat them as they were trying to cross the border, telling them India’s abstention at the UN Security Council had hurt Ukraine.
Poland to let in Indian students without visa 

Poland will allow Indian students to enter from war-hit Ukraine without any visa restrictions, according to media reports. Polish ambassador to India Adam Burakowski Tweeted Sunday, “Poland is allowing to enter without any visa all Indian students who escape from Russian aggression in Ukraine.”

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First Published: Feb 28 2022 | 1:01 AM IST

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