Ramping up the government’s efforts to evacuate Indian nationals stranded in Ukraine, an Indian Air Force (IAF) C-17 transport aircraft left for Romania in the early hours of Wednesday morning. The aircraft has taken off from the Hindon airbase at around 4 am. Two more IAF aircraft left for Hungary and Romania later in the day to rescue Indians via Hungary, and Romania today, as reported by ANI. At a press conference by Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Sandeep Singh, it was also informed that the planes are also carrying relief materials. Ambassador of India to United Nations, T S Tirumurti, on Monday (IST) had said that India has decided to provide urgent relief supplies, including medicines to Ukraine.
This comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting on Tuesday to review the efforts to bring back Indians stranded in Ukraine and asked the Indian Air Force to join the evacuation efforts under Operation Ganga. Sources cited by ANI said that leveraging the capacities of the Air Force will ensure that more people can be evacuated in a shorter time frame and it will also help to deliver humanitarian aid more efficiently.
The development comes after Russia intensified its military offensive on Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv. The city came under fierce shelling on Tuesday (IST). An Indian medical student, Naveen Shekharappa, hailing from Karnataka lost his life to shelling in Kharkiv on the same day. According to Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla’s statement on Tuesday, half of all the Indian citizens currently in Ukraine are stranded in Kharkiv. He said out of an estimated 20,000 Indian citizens in Ukraine, 60 per cent have left the country since the first advisory was issued by the government. “Of the remaining 40 per cent, roughly half remain in the conflict zone in Kharkiv and the other half have either reached the western border of Ukraine or are heading towards the western border.”
Briefing the media about the evacuation of Indians including students from Ukraine in the wake of Russian military operations, Shringla informed that over the next three days, 26 flights have been scheduled to bring out Indian citizens. “Apart from Bucharest and Budapest, airports in Poland and the Slovak Republic will also be used,” he said.
PM Modi held a high-level meeting over the crisis between Russia and Ukraine on Monday where it was decided that Union Minister of Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia will be overseeing evacuation operations of stranded Indians in Romania and Moldova, Minister of Law Kiren Rijiju will be visiting Slovakia, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri will be overlooking operations in Hungary, and Minister of State in the Ministry of Road Transport Gen (Retd) VK Singh will be coordinating the repatriation operations in Poland as part of the Indian government’s ‘Operation Ganga.’
Around 2,000 Indian nationals have been repatriated from Ukraine in nine special flights till now under ‘Operation Ganga.’