The Indian government today denied reports of Indian students being held as “hostages” in Ukraine, stating that it was in constant touch with Indian nationals in the war-torn country.
“We have not received 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,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.
The clarification came after the Russian government claimed that Ukrainian forces are keeping a large group of Indian students as “hostages” in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, which is virtually under Russian control.
– Arindam Bagchi (@MEAIndia) March 3, 2022
“According to our information, Ukrainian authorities are forcibly keeping a large group of Indian students in Kharkiv who wish to leave Ukrainian territory and go to Belgorod,” a Russian military spokesperson said at a briefing on Wednesday.
“In fact, they are being held as hostages… Russian armed forces are ready to take all necessary measures for the safe evacuation of the Indian citizens. And send them home from the Russian territory with its own military transport planes or Indian planes, as the Indian side proposed to do,” he added.
The startling claim by the Russians came not long after Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin and discussed the situation in Kharkiv, where over a thousand Indian students were said to be stranded.
It is learnt that the Russian side promised to create “humanitarian corridors” for evacuation of Indians from the conflict zones.
India has asked its nationals to leave Kharkiv urgently to three nearby places “even on foot” as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entered its seventh-day yesterday.
“The students who cannot find vehicles or buses and are in Railway station can proceed on foot to Pesochyn, Babai and Bezlydivka,” the advisory sent on Wednesday, second of the day, said “Proceed immediately. Under all circumstances, Indians must reach these settlements by 1800 hours (Ukrainian time) today,” it said.
Approximately 8,000 Indians, mainly students, are still stranded in Ukraine, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla had said on Tuesday. India has been evacuating its citizens through special flights from Ukraine’s western neighbours such as Romania, Hungary and Poland as the Ukrainian airspace has been shut since February 24 due to the Russian military offensive.
With inputs from NDTV