NEW DELHI: As many as 20,000 Indians have left Ukraine since the Indian Embassy in Kyiv issued the first emergency advisory, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Friday, stressing that the evacuation drive will continue till the last Indian is out of the war-hit country.
At a press conference, MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told reporters that 10,000 citizens have brought back to the country in special flights arranged by the government from the neighbouring countries of Ukraine.
India launched Operation Ganga to evacuate its citizens from Ukraine after Russia launched an attack on the former Soviet nation on February 24 and has accelerated its efforts to bring back Indian nationals stranded in the conflict zones.
“Sixteen flights have been scheduled for the next 24 hours. Five flights will take off from Budapest, the capital city of Hungary, four from Romania and three from Poland. A fleet of four C-17 Globemaster aircraft of the Indian Air Force have been deployed for the evacuation mission,” Bagchi stated.
India has given special attention to eastern Ukraine, particularly Kharkiv and Pisochyn areas. The government, with the support of the authorities of neighbouring countries of Ukraine, has arranged some buses for evacuation.
“Five buses are already operational and more buses will most likely be en route later in the evening,” he said.
India, however, has not received any proper information about the total number of buses from Russia for the evacuation of Indian nationals. Russian buses will most likely be parked far away from the Indian stuck in conflict zones. They may not reach the place to board buses arranged by Russia since they may have to cross the conflict areas.
India has not sided with any of the countries in the Russia-Ukraine war. It, however, abstained from a vote and a resolution against the Russia invasion of the eastern European nation in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the United Nations General Assembly.
About 900-1000 Indians are stranded in Pisochyn and more than 700 citizens in the north-eastern city of Sumy, Bagchi said, adding that India remained concerned about its citizens in the city.
“About 300 Indians are still stranded in Kharkiv, the epicenter of the conflict,” he informed.
He said that the vast majority of the stranded Indians would be brought back to the country by tomorrow. “However, flights will continue till complete evacuation takes place. We will continue to run Operation Ganga till the last person is out,” he added.