Ongoing shelling, lack of transport challenging evacuation efforts from Ukraine’s Sumy: MEA

Ongoing shelling and lack of transport facilities are posing considerable challenges to efforts in evacuating Indian students from Ukraine’s Sumy region, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Saturday. It added that over 13,300 Indians have been brought back from the war-torn country in 63 flights till now.

“Thirteen flights will be operated in next 24 hours to bring back Indians from Ukraine. The main focus now is on evacuating Indian students from Sumy, for which multiple options are being explored. Main challenges in evacuation of Indians from Sumy are ongoing shelling and violence and lack of transportation,” it said.

MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had earlier tweeted, “We are deeply concerned about Indian students in Sumy, Ukraine. Have strongly pressed Russian and Ukrainian governments through multiple channels for an immediate ceasefire to create a safe corridor for our students.”

Meanwhile, the Indian Embassy in Ukraine said that three buses have already reached Pisochyn to help Indian students stuck there. “3 buses organised by GoI have reached Pisochyn and will shortly be making their way westwards. 2 more buses will be arriving soon. Safe travels to all our students,” it tweeted.

On Saturday, a huge group of students, who are among the over 800 stuck at Sumy State University in Sumy, said they will be proceeding towards the Russian border on foot by risking their lives as they are no longer willing to wait for the Indian government to safely escort them.

In a video address, a girl standing along with the other students is seen saying, “We are students of Sumy State University. It is the tenth day of war. Today we got news that Russia has announced ceasefire to open humanitarian corridors for two cities. One of them is Mariupol which is 600 km away from Sumy. Since morning we are constantly listening to bombarding, shelling and street fights. We are afraid, we have waited a lot and we cannot wait anymore. We are risking our life, we are moving towards the border. If anything happens to us all the responsibility will be for government and Indian embassy. If anything happens to any one of us, then Mission Ganga will be a biggest failure.”

Earlier on Saturday, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that it had agreed on evacuation routes with Ukrainian forces to allow civilians to leave the strategic port of Mariupol in the southeast and the eastern town of Volnovakha “from 10 a.m. Moscow time” (8 am GMT.) The vaguely worded statement did not make clear how long the routes would remain open.

However, authorities in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol said an evacuation of civilians planned for Saturday had been postponed as Russian forces encircling the city were not respecting an agreed ceasefire, news agency Reuters reported.

In a statement, the city council asked residents to return to shelters in the city and wait for further information on evacuation. Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a televised broadcast that Russia is not observing an agreed ceasefire in certain areas, thwarting a joint plant to allow civilians to evacuate from frontline cities such as Mariupol.

(With agency inputs)

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