The Indian government is speaking to officials in both Russia and Ukraine to press for a ceasefire after Indian students stuck in Ukraine appealed for evacuations, a government spokesperson said Saturday.
“We are strongly urging both sides to have a ceasefire; whether it will happen, when it will happen, is something we will see as it happens,” said Arindam Bagchi, a spokesperson of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, during a Saturday news conference. “But I hope it happens because that will be something useful and necessary for us, otherwise we are putting them at risk. … We will continue to press on this.”
At least 700 Indian students are stranded in Sumy, a city in northeastern Ukraine, according to the ministry.
Bagchi said the other primary concern was transportation, as Sumy is about 30 miles from the Russian border and train lines are not operational.
Bagchi said buses or trucks would be a plausible option; however, the best route out would be determined by officials on ground. Meanwhile, Denis Alipov, the Russian ambassador to India, said Russia had responded to India’s request for help and arranged for “hundreds of buses.”
“We have created special groups that are ready to take the Indians to the territory of the Russian Federation and then transport them to India, but the catch is the fighting in these areas continues and where the Indians are, our forces are not,” Alipov said Saturday, adding that Indian diplomats were in Belgrade, Serbia, to coordinate action on ground.
Bagchi said that he understood the students’ feelings of being left behind but urged them to remain in shelters. Students have told CNN that the Indian embassy has not responded to their calls, but Bagchi said, “we are talking to the students directly both from the embassy and our control room here.”
“If there is a corridor, we will find a way to get them out,” he said. “If there is a pause in fighting, I assure you we will be able to pull them out.”
Bagchi said that all Indian citizens had left Kharkiv as far as the ministry was aware, but the embassy will take a fresh look to identify any citizens that remain.