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Indian student killed in shelling in Ukraine's Kharkiv: MEA

"With profound sorrow we confirm that an Indian student lost his life in shelling in Kharkiv this morning," the MEA spokesperson said.

March 01, 2022 / 05:34 PM IST
Russia launched full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24 (Image: AP)

Russia launched full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24 (Image: AP)

An Indian student in Ukraine has lost his life due to military shelling, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on March 1. The casualty was reported in Kharkiv, the northeastern Ukrainian city that came under Russian offensive earlier in the day.

"With profound sorrow we confirm that an Indian student lost his life in shelling in Kharkiv this morning. The Ministry is in touch with his family. We convey our deepest condolences to the family," MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

The deceased has been identified as 22-year-old Naveen Shekhararappa Gyanagoudar, belonging to Karnataka's Haveri district. The state's Chief Minister, Basavaraj Bommai, said he has spoken to the beraeved family and assured them that steps are being taken to bring back the student's body.

Catch the live updates of Russia-Ukraine military conflict

Karnataka State Disaster Management Authority Commissioner Manoj Rajan told news agency ANI that it has been learnt that Gyanagoudar suffered fatal injuries after he "left for a nearby store".

"We have confirmed from MEA the unfortunate demise of Naveen Shekharappa in Ukraine. He was from Chalageri, Haveri; had left for a nearby store to buy something. Later his friend got a call from a local official that he has died," Rajan said.

The military shelling in Kharkiv has been reported for the first time since World War II, when the forces led by the then German dictator Adolf Hitler had attacked the city.

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky has fiercely condemned the "Russian shelling" in Kharkiv, calling it an act of "war crime".

Indian government sources who spoke to ANI said the deteriorating situation in Kharkiv is a "matter of grave concern". The safety and security of Indian nationals in that city is of "utmost priority to government", they added.

Also Read | MEA activates dedicated Twitter handle to assist evacuation of Indians from Ukraine

The death of Gyanagoudar is the first casualty to be reported among Indian students -- who numbered around 18,000 in Ukraine before the start of the conflict.

The Indian government has been arranging evacuation flights to bring back the nationals and students who are stranded in the eastern European nation.

The MEA on February 28 said nearly 8,000 Indian nationals returned from Ukraine over the past month, and a total of 1,396 Indians were brought back in the evacuation flights being operated since the past week.

The government has decided to send four senior Union ministers - Hardeep Puri, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kiren Rijiju and V K Singh - to the countries neighbouring Ukraine to monitor the evacuation operations.

Scindia would be overseeing the evacuation efforts from Romania and Moldova, while Rijiju was to travel to Slovakia, officials said, adding that Puri will go to Hungary and Singh will be in Poland.

The decision to send the ministers came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that ensuring the safety of Indian students and evacuating them is the government’s top priority.

Modi, who spoke with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on February 27, expressed his concern for the thousands of Indian students who are stranded in the country. On February 28, Modi also spoke to Eduard Heger, the Prime Minister of neighbouring Slovak, to discuss the evacuation of Indians.

A section of the Opposition, however, has accused the government of taking insufficient measures to rescue the stranded Indian nationals. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has asked the government to "urgently share the detailed evacuation plan".

Reacting to the death of Indian student in Kharkiv, Gandhi tweeted, "My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. I reiterate, GOI needs a strategic plan for safe evacuation. Every minute is precious (sic)."

Notably, the bulk of Indian students stranded in Ukraine were pursuing medical education. After the Kyiv-Moscow tensions escalated last month, New Delhi had issued multiple advisories asking all Indians on non-essential stay to leave the country at the earliest.

The Russian army launched an invasion on February 24, targeting regions that are located on the eastern frontier of Ukraine.

The western region of Ukraine, which is closer to the Romanian, Polish and Slovak borders, is considered to be relatively safer. The MEA recommended the stranded Indian nationals in Kyiv - where the curfew was lifted on February 28 - to travel by train towards the western borders.

"Once you (stranded citizens) cross the Ukrainian border, we will make sure to bring you back. The main focus is to ensure that Indians are able to cross over from Ukraine and neighbouring countries that I mentioned," Bagchi had said.
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first published: Mar 1, 2022 03:20 pm