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PM calls another high-level meet, 4 ministers to go for evacuation ops

By Ruchi Upadhyay 
Updated Date

New Delhi: Amid the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called a high-level meeting to discuss the situation and he safety of Indian nationals stranded in the war-hit eastern European nation.

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Sources said on Monday that Prime Minister Modi has called a high-level meeting on the Ukraine crisis. Some Union Ministers may go to neighboring countries of Ukraine to coordinate the evacuations of Indian nationals, they added.

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Earlier on Sunday also, the Prime Minister had chaired a high-level meeting on the Ukraine crisis. Sources said that he had asserted that ensuring the safety of Indian students and evacuating them is the government’s top priority. It was also decided at the meeting to further enhance cooperation with the neighbouring countries of Ukraine to expedite the evacuation of Indian students, sources said.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary Harsh V Shringla, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval were part of the meeting.

A large number of Indians, mostly students, are stranded in Ukraine following Russia’s attack on the country.

Union Ministers Hardeep Singh Puri, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kiren Rijiju and Gen (Retd) VK Singh to travel to neighbouring countries of Ukraine to coordinate the evacuation mission and help students, says government sources.

Around 16,000 students are believed to be stuck in Ukraine, hiding in bunkers, bomb shelters or their hostel basements.

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Opposition parties, mainly the Congress, have been sharing videos of students’ SOS and have attacked the government for not bringing back students sooner.

A few were able to fly out just before Russia launched its attack last Thursday and Ukraine shuts its airspace.

Those still in the country have been trying to make their way to the border so they can take Air India evacuation flights arranged from neighbouring countries like Romania, Hungary, Slovak Republic and Poland.

Many students have ventured out on foot, desperate to reach the border.

The Indian Embassy in Ukraine said on Twitter on Saturday that Indian citizens should not move to any of the border posts without coordinating with government officials, using helpline numbers. The embassy had said it was difficult to help those who reached border checkpoints without informing them.

The embassy said staying in western cities of Ukraine with access to water, food, accommodation and basic amenities was relatively safer and advisable compared to reaching border checkpoints without any plan.

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The first evacuation flight, AI1944, bringing back 219 people from Bucharest to Mumbai, landed on Saturday.

The second evacuation flight, with 250 on board, landed in Delhi around 2.45 am on Sunday.

Indians who reached the Romania and Hungary borders have been taken to Bucharest and Budapest by road, with help from government officials, so that they could be evacuated in these Air India flights.

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