India is looking for alternative routes to evacuate its citizens living in conflict-hit Ukraine after the east European nation closed its airspace following a Russian invasion. An Air India flight going to Ukraine turned back for Delhi this morning. Flight trackers on the internet show no commercial aircraft in Ukrainian airspace as of now.
Sources said high-level meetings are going on at the Ministry of External Affairs, or MEA, to work out contingency plans and find alternate evacuation routes for thousands of Indian citizens living in Ukraine.
More Russian-speaking officials have been sent to India’s embassy in Ukraine and are being deployed in countries neighbouring Ukraine, sources in the MEA have said.
The Indian embassy has also issued a set of guidelines to students and others who live in the country. Kyiv was among the cities targeted by Russia.
The Indian embassy warned that citizens “traveling to Kyiv, including those traveling from western parts of Kyiv, are advised to return to their respective cities temporarily, especially towards safer places along the western bordering countries.”
Air raid sirens cut through the early morning air in other parts of Ukraine like Odessa, Kharkiv, Kramatorsk and Mariupol.
“The present situation in Ukraine is highly uncertain. Please maintain calm and remain safe wherever you are, be it in your homes, hostels, accommodations or in transit,” said the Indian embassy.
With large-scale military operations unfolding in eastern Ukraine, commercial flights would be at a very high risk due to the chaotic nature of the airspace, which would likely be crowded with military anti-aircraft activity.
A Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down in July 2014, killing all 298 people on board, during heavy fighting between Ukraine’s armed forces and pro-Russian separatists. Investigators still suspect the aircraft was downed by a Russian-made BUK anti-aircraft missile fired from eastern Ukraine.
With inputs from NDTV