Ukraine crisis: PM Modi dials Vladimir Putin, discusses safe evacuation of Indian nationals

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. This is the second phone call between the two leaders within a week.

“The leaders reviewed the situation in Ukraine, especially in the city of Kharkiv where many Indian students are stuck. They discussed the safe evacuation of the Indian nationals from the conflict areas,” a PMO statement said.

Prime Minister Modi also chaired a high-level meeting on Wednesday night on the Ukraine crisis as India stepped up its efforts to evacuate its citizens, mostly students, from the country under attack from Russia.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Cabinet colleague Piyush Goyal besides senior officials attended the meeting.

Modi has held a series of meetings since Sunday to spearhead India’s efforts to safely bring back its nationals, asserting that this is his government’s top priority.

A day after an Indian student was killed in shelling in Ukraine’s second largest city Kharkiv, Denis Alipov, the new Russian envoy to India, while expressing regret for the death and promising an investigation, said Moscow is working on a “humanitarian corridor” for safe passage of Indians through the Russia-Ukraine border.

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.

Hours after the Russian envoy’s comments Wednesday, the India embassy in Ukraine asked all Indians stranded in Kharkiv to leave the conflict zone immediately. The embassy asked Indians to proceed to settlements in Pesochin, Babaye and Bezlyudovka as soon as possible.

Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said, “They should leave immediately by any means available, including on foot.” The three points, he said, have been chosen “based on Russian inputs”, and are about 15 km from Kharkiv.

While Pesochyn is 11 km away, Babai is at a distance of 12 km and Bezlyudovka 16 km. “For their safety and security, they must leave Kharkiv immediately. Proceed to Pesochin, Babaye and Bezlyudovka as soon as possible,” the embassy said. “Under all circumstances, they must reach these settlements by 1800 hours (Ukrainian time) today,” it said.

Later, the embassy reiterated the advisory with a tone of urgency: “For their own safety and security, they must leave Kharkiv immediately repeat immediately in the light of the deteriorating situation. They should proceed to Pesochin, Babaye and Bezlyudovka as soon as possible for their safety. Those students who cannot find vehicles or buses and are in railway station can proceed on foot. Proceed immediately. Under all circumstances, Indians must reach these settlements by 6 pm Ukrainian Time today.”

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