An Indian student has been killed in the ongoing fighting in Ukraine according to India’s foreign ministry even as New Delhi ramped up efforts to rescue thousands of Indian students stranded in the war-torn country.
The 21-year-old medical student was killed in the town of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city that is under attack from Russian forces. “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,” the foreign ministry said Tuesday.
The ministry said the Indian foreign secretary is calling in ambassadors of Russia and Ukraine to “reiterate our demand for urgent safe passage for Indian nationals who are still in Kharkiv and cities in other conflict zones."
The student’s death was reported as Indian students stranded in Ukraine issued desperate appeals to be evacuated and New Delhi dispatched senior ministers to neighboring countries and said it is increasing evacuation flights to help both Indian nationals and those from other developing countries.
Opposition leaders and parents of students have urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take urgent measures to evacuate the remaining students.
“Some people are panicking. Please do not worry. Once you cross the Ukrainian borders, we will make sure that there are enough flights to bring you back whether it takes a day or two more," foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on Monday. “We are encouraging Indians to move to western Ukraine.”
But in social media posts and in calls with Indian television channels, students are narrating their ordeal — some said they are huddling in temporary camps at Ukraine’s borders, others said they were told by the Indian embassy to go to the rail stations in Kyiv but could not get on board trains.
Some students alleged they were mistreated by border guards at the Ukraine-Poland border while attempting to cross fleeing the conflict to seek safety.
It prompted opposition leader Rahul Gandhi to tweet “we can’t abandon our own people.”
India’s foreign ministry also said it is sending humanitarian aid and medical assistance to Ukraine following a request from the Ukranian envoy in New Delhi. It is seen as a diplomatic gesture by New Delhi, which has not issued any public condemnation of Russia and abstained from two votes at the United Nations Security Council — on a resolution that sought to deplore Russia’s aggression and a procedural vote calling for an emergency session of the United Nations General Assembly.
India also abstained from a vote at the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday to hold an urgent debate on Ukraine.
Political analysts say India’s stance is influenced by its heavy reliance on weapons from Moscow at a time when tensions with China are running high and on New Delhi’s unwillingness to abandon a partner that has stood by it in the past.