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We will bring you back home safe, sound: India to its citizens in Ukraine

A government statement said Modi conveyed to Putin that India attaches highest priority to the safe exit of Indians from Ukraine and their return to India

People stand next to fragments of military equipment on the street in the aftermath of an apparent Russian strike in Kharkiv (Photo: AP/PTI)

People stand next to fragments of military equipment on the street in the aftermath of an apparent Russian strike in Kharkiv (Photo: AP/PTI)

Press Trust of India New Delhi
India on Thursday mounted a major initiative to evacuate its citizens from Ukraine to neighbouring countries through land border crossings after Russia launched a large-scale military assault on the eastern European nation triggering major global concerns and sanctions against Moscow by several Western powers.
Amid the deepening crisis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin and "sensitised" him about India's concerns regarding the safety of the Indian citizens in Ukraine, especially students.
A government statement said Modi conveyed to Putin that India attaches highest priority to the safe exit of Indians from Ukraine and their return to India.
"The prime minister appealed for an immediate cessation of violence, and called for concerted efforts from all sides to return to the path of diplomatic negotiations and dialogue," an official statement said.
With increasing concerns over the safety of Indians in Ukraine, Modi chaired a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) with a primary focus of evacuating the citizens.
At a media briefing, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the prime minister conveyed at the CCS meeting that the topmost priority of the government is the safety and security of Indian nationals including students and their evacuation from Ukraine.
"I want to assure all Indian citizens including students in Ukraine and their family members that we will take all possible steps to bring you back safe and sound," he said.
The foreign secretary said there were around 20,000 Indians in Ukraine and of them, nearly 4,000 have returned to India in the last few days.
Shringla said the government has asked Indian ambassadors in countries neighbouring Ukraine such as Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary to send teams from their missions to border areas with Ukraine to facilitate the exit of Indians so that they can be evacuated to India.
The Indian embassy in Poland said a camp office is being set up at Krakowiec on the Polish-Ukrainian border that will facilitate transit through Poland to India. A similar office is also being set up in Lviv in Ukraine.
The Indian embassy in Hungary said it sent a team to the border post of Zohanyi to coordinate and provide assistance to facilitate the exit of Indians from Ukraine.
Shringla said External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will be speaking to his counterparts from Poland Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and Ukraine on the crisis.
After Putin ordered a "military operation" in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, Russia launched multiple attacks on several areas in central and eastern Ukraine that attracted severe condemnation from the US and its allies.
Shringla said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is in touch with the Ministry of Defence to facilitate airlifting of Indians if required.
As the Ukrainian government declared a state emergency and closed the country's airspace for civilian flights, the Indian embassy in Kyiv issued three separate advisories in the course of the day appealing to the Indians to maintain calm and remain safe wherever they are.
The embassy said in view of the closure of the Ukrainian airspace, alternative arrangements are being made for the evacuation of Indian nationals. However, it did not provide any clarity on evacuation arrangements.
Separately, the Indian ambassador to Ukraine, Partha Satpathy, called on Indians to face the current situation with "calm and fortitude" as the situation is "highly tense and very uncertain".
The envoy said the MEA and the embassy are working on a "mission mode" to find a "solution to this difficult situation".
In the midst of the Russian offensive, European Union's High Representative for foreign affairs Josep Borrell spoke to Jaishankar and discussed the "grave situation" and how India could contribute to de-escalating the situation.
"Received a call from EU HRVP @JosepBorrellF. Discussed the grave situation in Ukraine and how India could contribute to de-escalation efforts," Jaishankar tweeted.
The 27-nation European Union has been playing a key role to defuse the crisis.
Jaishankar also spoke to his British counterpart Liz Truss on the situation in Ukraine.
In its latest advisory, the Indian embassy said the movement of people is now difficult in Ukraine as it is under martial law and those hearing air sirens and bomb warnings should find nearby bomb shelters.
"We are aware that certain places are hearing air sirens/bomb warnings. In case you are faced with such a situation, Google maps have a list of nearby bomb shelters, many of which are located in underground metros," it said.
"While the mission is identifying a possible solution to the situation, please be aware of your surroundings, be safe, do not leave your homes unless necessary and carry your documents with you at all times," it said.
Ambassador Satpathy said the Indian embassy in Kyiv continues to remain open and operate.
"I am reaching out to you from Kyiv. Today early morning, we all woke up with the news that Ukraine is under attack. The situation is highly tense and very uncertain and this of course is causing a lot of anxiety," he said.
"The air space is closed, railway schedules are in flux and roads are crammed. I would request everyone to stay calm and face the situation with fortitude," Satpathy said.
He said the embassy has already reached out to the Indian diaspora in Ukraine and requested them to assist the Indians to the "best of their abilities".
"I urge you to please stay wherever you are, in your familiar locations. Those who are in transit, please return to your familiar places of habitation," he said.
"Those who are stranded here in Kyiv, please get in touch with your friends and colleagues in Kyiv, universities and other community members, so that you can temporarily lodge there," Satpathy said.
Government sources said "contingency plans are being put into operation and that the immediate priority is to assist the Indians".
In one of its advisories, the Indian embassy said: "All those who are travelling to Kyiv, including those travelling from western parts of Kyiv, are advised to return to their respective cities temporarily, especially towards safer places along with the western bordering countries."

It is learnt that the government is exploring the possibility of facilitating the movement of the stranded Indians to Polland from where they can be evacuated. However, there is no clarity on it.
In a related development, Ukraine's Ambassador to India Igor Polikha said India has a "special" relationship with Russia and it can play a more proactive role in de-escalation of the situation.
He said Modi is among very few leaders who Putin listens to and New Delhi can use its proximity with Moscow to control the situation.
At the same time, he said Ukraine was "deeply dissatisfied" with India's position on the crisis.
India has been pressing for de-escalation of tensions taking into account the legitimate security interests of all countries.
The situation in Ukraine deteriorated after Putin announced the military operation in Ukraine.
Following Putin's announcement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said an "invasion" could be the beginning of a "big war" in Europe.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Feb 25 2022 | 2:11 AM IST

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