The move to evacuate Indians through Ukraine’s western borders follows President Putin’s assurances to Prime Minister Modi that Russian troops have been ordered to ensure their safety. The timing will be determined when the evacuees reach the Eastern European capitals.
Prime Minister Modi will discuss the situation on Saturday at a meeting of the cabinet committee on security, sources said.
These flights, chartered by the government bearing the costs, mark the resumption of the evacuation of nearly 16,000 Indians stranded in war-torn Ukraine. On Friday evening, 200 Indians from western Ukraine were brought to Romania via the Suceava border crossing.
The arrival of Indians in Romania marked a breakthrough in the government’s efforts to keep Indian citizens safe after the Russian attack that led to the closure of airspace and destruction of runways. The first two evacuation flights – Delhi-Bucharest and Mumbai-Bucharest – were scheduled to depart Friday at 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., but they had yet to take off until final reports as the situation in the theater of war is very fluid. “Not only has Ukrainian airspace been restricted to civilian flights, but runways in the country have also been bombed. Poland was the closest to Ukraine from an evacuation point of view, but there were logistical problems,” said a source.
Accordingly, on Friday, four buses — clearly marked by Indian flags to show that they are carrying Indian students so that they are not mistaken for defense personnel — took the first batch of evacuees from Ukraine to Romania through the Suceava border crossing. Indian diplomats in Suceava will facilitate the onward journey to Bucharest for the trip to India.
In the afternoon, “more than 470 students will leave Ukraine and enter Romania through the Porubne-Siret border. We are moving Indians who are on the border to neighboring countries for further evacuation.” Indian Embassy in Kiev tweeted.
The evacuees have been asked to carry their passports, some cash (preferably US dollars) and certificates proving they have been fully vaccinated, if available. The Indian embassy in Ukraine said Friday it was working to establish evacuation routes from Romania and Hungary. “At the moment, teams are ready for the following checkpoints: Chop-Zahony Hungarian border at Uzhhorod, Porubne-Siret Romanian border at Chernivtsi,” it said. Once these routes are established, Indians from Ukraine departing alone will also have to reach these places.
The Romanian border post is about 600 km from Kiev, a drive that takes 8.5 to 11 hours. Bucharest is another 500 km or 7-9 hours away. Kiev is more than 800 km from the Hungarian border, or 12-13 hours by road. The foreign ministry has set up camp offices in the cities of Lviv and Chernivtsi in western Ukraine to facilitate the transit of Indians to Hungary, Romania and Poland, people familiar with the development said. According to the Indian embassy in the Slovak capital Bratislava, citizens of Romania, Hungary and Poland are being taken and flown away. Although Slovakia is not a designated place as of now, Indians arriving there will also receive consular assistance, it added.