Delhi said no info but Putin claims 3000 Indian nationals being held in Ukraine

In New Delhi, officials viewed this as a difficult situation in a conflict zone where citizens have been hunkering down in bunkers and underground shelters, and movement is restricted due to the curfew-like situation on the streets.

Shortly after Putin’s remarks, the Associated Press quoted Ukrainian and Russian officials saying they reached a tentative agreement to arrange for safe corridors to evacuate civilians and deliver humanitarian supplies.

On Wednesday night too, the Kremlin had spoken of Indians being kept hostage in its readout of the phone conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Putin.

In Moscow Thursday night, Putin, speaking in Russian, said, “Thousands of young people, students who were studying in Ukraine’s colleges were kept for more than one day… more than 3,000 Indian citizens at the train station in Kharkiv. And they continue keeping them there, including 576 people in the city of Sumy.”

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He said “neo-Nazis opened fire on Chinese students who wanted to leave Kharkiv and two of them were wounded”.

“Hundreds of foreigners want to leave the hostilities zone but they are not allowed to do that. Basically, they are taking prisoners, trying to delay their relief… Our military (has) opened safe passage, green corridors to allow them to leave safely and as they are giving them transport so that civilians, foreign citizens get an opportunity to move to safer zones and once again… are not allowing this to happen,” Putin said, adding, “Basically, they are throwing them under gunfire”.

Earlier in the day, in response to media queries regarding reports of Indian students being held hostage in Ukraine, Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said, “Our Embassy in Ukraine is in continuous touch with Indian nationals in Ukraine. We note that with the cooperation of the Ukrainian authorities, many students have left Kharkiv yesterday. We have not received any reports of any hostage situation regarding any student.”

“We have requested support of the Ukrainian authorities in arranging special trains for taking out students from Kharkiv and neighbouring areas to the western part of the country,” he said.

At a media briefing hours later, Bagchi reiterated that there was no hostage situation and India does not have any such reports. He said Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla spoke to the Ukrainian deputy foreign minister late Wednesday evening on the safe evacuation of Indian students from Kharkiv.

It is estimated that around 4,000 Indians, mostly students in medical colleges, are stuck in the eastern and north-eastern parts of Ukraine, close to the Russian border.

The MEA said about 1,000 Indians have left Kharkiv for nearby Pisochyn, pursuant to its advisory a day ago. Bagchi said a few hundred Indians are believed to be still stuck in Kharkiv and India is closely following developments in the city along with the situation in other conflict zones in eastern Ukraine.

“We are currently looking at transportation options to move them from there to western Ukraine or southern Ukraine depending on the transportation options,” he said.

The Indian embassy in Ukraine on Thursday advised all Indian nationals in Kharkiv to fill an online form on urgent basis as the Russian onslaught on the city continued.

After Kremlin said Wednesday night that Indian students in Kharkiv had been “taken hostage” by Ukrainian security forces who were using them as “human shield” to “prevent them from leaving for Russian territory”, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry “urgently called on the governments of India, Pakistan, China and other countries whose students have become hostages of the Russian armed aggression in Kharkiv and Sumy, to demand from Moscow that it allow the opening of a humanitarian corridor to other Ukrainian cities”.

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