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Over 13,700 Indians evacuated so far: Govt

Over 13,700 Indians evacuated so far: Govt
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New Delhi: Under 'Operation Ganga', about 3,000 Indians were airlifted on Saturday by 15 special flights from Ukraine's neighbouring countries. These included 12 special civilian and 3 IAF flights. With this, more than 13,700 Indians have been brought back since the special flights began on February 22, 2022. The number of Indians brought back by 55 special civilian flights goes up to 11,728. To date, the IAF has flown 10 sorties to bring back 2,056 passengers, while taking 26 tonnes of relief load to these countries, as part of Op Ganga.

Three C-17 heavy-lift transport aircraft of the IAF, which had taken off on Friday from the Hindan airbase, landed back at Hindan Saturday morning. These flights evacuated 629 Indian nationals from Romania, Slovakia and Poland. These flights also carried 16.5 tonnes of relief load from India to these countries. All civilian flights, except one, had landed during Saturday morning, while a flight from Kosice to New Delhi was expected to arrive late in the evening. Saturday's civilian flights included 5 from Budapest, 4 from Suceva, 1 from Kosice and 2 from Rzeszow.

On Sunday, 11 special flights are expected to operate from Budapest, Kosice, Rzeszow and Bucharest, bringing in more than 2,200 Indians back home.

Meanwhile, India on Saturday "strongly pressed" the Russian and Ukrainian governments through multiple channels for an immediate ceasefire in Sumy to ensure a safe passage for around 700 Indian students stuck there as it keeps focus on their evacuation from the war-hit city in eastern Ukraine.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India's main focus is now on evacuating the students from Sumy, and that the safe exit of Indians from Kharkiv and Pisochyn is almost complete.

Amid growing concerns over the well-being of Indian students in Sumy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called another high-level meeting to discuss the situation in Ukraine and India's evacuation efforts, official sources said.

"We are deeply concerned about Indian students in Sumy, Ukraine. Have strongly pressed Russian and Ukrainian governments through multiple channels for an immediate ceasefire to create a safe corridor for our students," Bagchi said.

"Have advised our students to take safety precautions, stay inside shelters and avoid unnecessary risks," he said on Twitter.

Bagchi also said the main challenge remains the ongoing shelling and violence in Sumy and lack of transportation.

In the last few days, the students have been sending SOS messages and posting videos on social media, pleading for their urgent evacuation from the conflict zone as the city has been witnessing air strikes.

Following the embassy's assurance, the students did not leave the eastern Ukrainian city that has seen intense fighting between Russian and Ukrainian troops.

"We are afraid. We have waited a lot and we cannot wait anymore. We are risking our life. We are moving towards the border. If anything happens to us, all the responsibility will be on the government and Indian embassy," a student, surrounded by a large number of his peers holding Indian flags, says in one of the videos.

In another video, students are seen filling up buckets with ice as they ran out of drinking water.

At a media briefing, Bagchi said India will continue to push for the ceasefire.

"I would urge all our students in Sumy, we know what you are going through. It is a tough situation. You are managing it with fortitude, please stay safe, avoid unnecessary risks. Safety and security are paramount, We feel your pain and the difficulty you are going through. Just bear with us," he added.

The Indian embassy in Ukraine said all the Indians from Pisochyn have been evacuated and that it will continue to remain in touch with them through their journey.

"Their safety has always been our priority. Be Safe Be Strong," it tweeted.

The students in Sumy have been staying in the hostels of the Medical Institute of Sumy State University.

India has been urging both Russia and Ukraine to safe corridors for evacuation of its nationals from the conflict zones in eastern Ukraine.

Earlier in the day, the embassy in Ukraine said it is reaching out to 298 Indian students in Pisochyn and buses are being arranged to evacuate them.

The mission also said it is in touch with all concerned interlocutors including the Red Cross to identify the exit routes to take out the Indians from Sumy.

At the briefing, Bagchi said probably one Nepali citizen will be coming on Saturday on-board one of the evacuation flights.

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