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Exclusive | Govt may fly out stranded Indians in Ukraine from neighboring nations: Sources

While the primary objective remains the restoration of direct flights to Kyiv, an evacuation plan involving neighboring countries is being vetted to see whether it is feasible. As the closest international airport in Belarus remains cut off, the government is in talks with Air India, Air Arabia, and Qatar Airways to have flights on standby in Poland, on Ukraine's eastern border.

February 24, 2022 / 02:52 PM IST
Smoke bellows from a house in Eastern Ukraine after being hit by shells fired by Russia (Image: AFP)

Smoke bellows from a house in Eastern Ukraine after being hit by shells fired by Russia (Image: AFP)

As hopes of sending more civilian flights dim due to the escalating fighting in Ukraine, the government is planning to evacuate Indians through the country's neighboring nations, sources say. This would entail flights to the neighboring countries of Poland, Slovakia, or Hungary on Ukraine's eastern borders, they added.

"The government is currently brainstorming with India's permanent mission at the United Nations as well as the Indian embassy in Kyiv, as to the next possible step. While the primary objective is to restore direct flights to Kyiv to extract our citizens, a possible evacuation plan involving neighboring countries is being vetted to see whether it is feasible," a senior official with the Ministry of External Affairs said.

The Belarus capital of Minsk has the closest international airport outside Ukraine from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. However, officials say that route may not be feasible since Russia's staunch ally Belarus is also reported to be complicit in Thursday's ground offensive by Russia. Instead, officials say safe passage may be sought for Indians to the Polish border on Ukraine's eastern border.

According to sources, around 20,000 Indians are studying MBBS in Ukraine. Many of them have gotten in touch with the Embassy, and have expressed interest in leaving the country as soon as possible. While many of them are based in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, others are spread across the country.