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It's bombing every 10 minutes, and we are holed-up in basements of our hostel rooms, Indian students tell The Probe

The Probe brings you an exclusive report on the plight of Indian students in Ukraine following the Russian offensive. Thousands of Indian students caught in the crossfire demand the Indian embassy to evacuate them proactively.

By Sourav Rai
New Update


After Russia launched its military offensive against Ukraine, thousands of Indian students caught in the war zone sought help from the Indian government to evacuate them immediately. The Probe spoke to many affected students who asked why the Indian embassy was not proactive in rescuing them when they knew that the situation was volatile and could reach the tipping point soon.

"Every day, the embassy has been sending us forms telling us what to do and what not. Through these forms, they have been updating us on the latest situation and have been requesting us to stay indoors. In the location that we are in, there are around 300 to 400 Indian students in the hostel itself, and the rest of the Indian students are staying in apartments nearby. We are extremely tense, and we have no clue what to do," said Cherry, an MBBS student from Ukraine to The Probe.

The Probe also spoke to many other affected students who asked why the Indian embassy was not proactive in rescuing them when they knew that the situation was volatile and could reach the tipping point anytime.

"Do you know what we are going through? We were not prepared for this. We were absolutely caught unawares, and we woke up to the sound of blasts in Kharkiv. We are more worried about our parents back in India. They have been trying to contact the embassy to get us evacuated immediately, but the embassy officials are not answering calls or giving us clear directions. How can we stay put in the same location when the situation all around us is so tense?" asked a second-year MBBS student to The Probe.

The Indian students also told The Probe that the Embassy of India in Kyiv sent them an advisory today informing them that the Ukrainian airspace has been closed and all the schedules for the special flights stand cancelled. The embassy also informed the students that it is looking at getting them evacuated to the Western part of the country.

"People who have been talking to the embassy officials have told us that it seems that they got information that the embassy is considering various options, which includes trying to evacuate us to the Western side of the country, but so far we are clueless, and we don't know what the future beholds for us. We came here to study and realise our dreams, and we never expected this," said Cherry.

The Probe also spoke to many anxious students who sent us videos of all of them crammed in underground shelter areas in their hostels, waiting desperately to hear from the Indian embassy on their evacuation.

Video sent by one of the students to The Probe from Kharkiv, Ukraine. The video shows students holed up in the basement of their hostel rooms.

"I don't know how we will get past the day today. Every 10 minutes, there is bombing. We are scared for our lives. We are in Kharkiv, and we are hidden in the shelters of our hostel. We are trying our best to follow all the government guidelines, but the situation here is getting out of hand. We are requesting the Indian government to evacuate us as soon as possible. There's too much commotion here. The bombing started here at 5 a.m, and it has been going on non-stop ever since," said Ajay Ahuja, a student in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

The Indian embassy in Kyiv had also sent an advisory to the students on February 22, asking them to leave Ukraine temporarily in the interest of their own safety rather than wait for an official confirmation from universities.

"My son is in a very volatile zone in Kharkiv. The situation is terrible there. I just spoke to my son an hour ago. They are all panicking. You know how a war-like situation will be, right? They have moved the students to the basement, which they call a shelter room within their hostel campus. We have still not received any update from the Indian embassy. I want the Indian embassy to immediately evacuate our children from Ukraine. For three days, we have been requesting the Indian embassy to take this matter seriously as the situation is getting bad to worse," said Sanjeev Ahuja, father of Ajay Ahuja from Jalandhar in Punjab.

Many students and their parents also confirmed to The Probe that they had no inkling about the situation, and until yesterday many universities in Ukraine were holding offline classes.

"I was shocked when I heard this morning that Putin was going to launch an attack on Ukraine. I am sure the Ukrainian government also had no clue. I was in a conversation with my son yesterday in Kharkiv, and he told me that until yesterday he was taking part in offline classes," said Sanjeev Ahuja.

The students and their family members are also miffed at the airlines for ramping up prices of the air tickets for the last few days. Many airlines, including Air India had almost doubled their prices following excessive demands from Indians stranded in Ukraine to return to their country.

All the airlines had increased the price of tickets as there was severe demand and some people were willing to give any amount so that their children could be safely evacuated. My son, too, had a booking for February 27. Air India had started three flights. Initially, a one-way ticket with Air India used to just cost us around 20,000 rupees and a roundtrip would cost us around 40,000 rupees. But Air India later put their price at a premium, and they started charging 60,000 for a one-way ticket and about 1,05,000 for a round trip. The flights for February 22, 24 and 26 were very expensive, so we decided to book the flight for February 27. But the situation suddenly turned hostile, and all flights got cancelled," said Sanjeev Ahuja.

Students urge the Indian government to evacuate them to safety immediately from Ukraine

The Indian embassy in Kyiv also wrote to the President of Ukraine, asking him to ensure the safety and security of over 15,000 Indian students who are stranded in Ukraine. "The Embassy of India in Kyiv take this opportunity to renew to the office of the President of Ukraine, the assurances of its highest consideration," stated the embassy in its letter.

Many Indians from Ukraine also shared videos of them holed up at the underground metro stations at Kharkiv. A group of students was found appealing to the Indian government to rescue them immediately.

"I am the President of the Indian students association here. Our situation is dire. Since morning Russia has been hurling bombs. Literally, every 15 minutes. All of us with folded hands want to request the Indian government to please evacuate us from here. Markets don't have food items. ATMs are not dispensing cash. Everything is shut," said Divyanshu Gehlot, a student from The Ivano-Frankivsk National Medical University in Ukraine.

Partha Satpathy, the Ambassador of India to Ukraine, released a video while assuring the students that the embassy will continue operating around the clock. The Ambassador, in his address, asked the Indian nationals to stay put wherever they were and not to venture out till the government of India worked out modalities to evacuate the citizens.

"We have been witnessing these incidents live. You can imagine our plight. We are requesting the Indian government to evacuate us to safety," said Manvi Bhargav, another anxious student from Ivano-Frankivsk in Ukraine.