Russia-Ukraine: IAF Puts Two IL-76 Aircraft on Standby to Evacuate Indians from Moscow

Two IL-76 aircraft have been put on standby to fly to Moscow to evacuate Indian students, as and when they reach there from Kharkiv and Sumy in war-hit Ukraine. The Russian airlifters, deployed by the Indian Air Force, are likely to fly out to Moscow late on Thursday or Friday when stranded students are brought to the Russian capital.

Earlier in the day, the ministry of external affairs said the Russian and Ukrainian authorities were making efforts to provide safe passage to Indian citizens, including students, stranded in the war-torn country. Authorities said at least 4,000 students are still trapped.

The MEA, however, did not provide any clarity if the Russian defence ministry had offered to evacuate Indians on its own military transport planes. “There has been no movement towards the Russian border as conflict is going on that side,” said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi on Thursday.

The Russian defence minister on Wednesday said its armed forces were ready to take all necessary measures for the safe evacuation of Indian citizens, including sending them “home from the Russian territory with its own military transport planes or Indian planes”.

Russia’s military offensive against Ukraine entered the second week, with one of the major port cities Kherson under Russian control while capital Kyiv and second-largest city Kharkiv are facing increased shelling and bombardment.

The MEA has made it clear that it was focused on evacuating Indians from Kharkiv and other conflict zones in eastern Ukraine. Bagchi said around 1,000 Indians reached Pisochyn from Kharkiv following the urgent advisory issued by the Indian embassy in Ukraine on Wednesday.

“We estimate that a few 100 still remain in Kharkiv despite our advisory,” Bagchi said, adding that “unfortunately” there has been a fresh outbreak of violence in the city on Thursday.

Bagchi also said leaving Kharkiv will be the best option. “Unfortunately there has been a fresh outbreak of violence in Kharkiv today (Thursday), which always makes our job difficult… It is a dynamic situation. I want to emphasise that we are in touch with Ukrainian and Russian authorities to examine the modalities on how we can evacuate them from Kharkiv, Sumy and other cities,” he added.

Bagchi also said a significant part of the Indian embassy staff in Kyiv left for Lviv along western Ukraine to coordinate the evacuation of Indians while another was asked to go to eastern Ukraine. According to the MEA, more than 6,400 Indians on 30 special flights had been brought back from Ukraine. A total of 18,000 Indian nationals have left Ukraine since the first advisory was released by the MEA.

Bagchi further said the total number of Indian citizens waiting to cross Ukraine’s western borders had reduced. “We are scheduling more flights and a large number of Indians will be back home in the next two to three days. I would like to appreciate the Ukrainian government and the neighboring countries for hosting our people and providing support in evacuating them,” he added.

(With PTI inputs)

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