Foreign Minister Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Sunday that the government of India has launched a multiple evacuation plan titled ‘Operation Ganga’ to evacuate Indian citizens stranded in Ukraine, adding that thousands of Indian citizens have fled the conflict-ravaged country. . †
While fierce fighting is underway in Kharkov, Sumy and Kiev, Mr. Shringla held a special briefing on ‘Operation Ganga’ and said: “Under Ganga, thousands of our citizens have flown in from Romania and Hungary and another thousand have been evacuated from Ukraine. through the land routes.Thousands of our students have crossed from Ukraine to areas conducive to their evacuation via the air route back to India.’
The government of India has launched a multiple evacuation plan titled ‘Operation Ganga’ to evacuate Indian citizens stranded in Ukraine.
The Indian government bears the costs of the evacuation given the prevailing emergency. The Indian embassy in Kiev and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi issued a number of advisories prior to the development of the situation requesting Indian citizens to leave Ukraine.
“4,000 of our nationals left before the conflict based on these advisories. We estimate that at that time 15,000 of our citizens were in Ukraine when Op Ganga started. Since airspace in Ukraine was closed after the conflict started, we have options for land evacuation identified through four neighboring countries – Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia,” said the foreign minister.
Specific border crossing points were identified with each of these countries and the MEA had deployed teams of Russian-speaking officers to go there and assist in the evacuation process.
“We also requested our embassy in Kiev and they set up a 24X7 control room and we had done the same in our ministry in Delhi,” said Mr Shringla.
He also said flights are being organized for these evacuees and details will be shared shortly, adding: “I’ll show you the flights we have planned for the next 24-48 hours.”
Mr Shringla further said that the border crossing to Hungary and Romania is working, but the exit to Poland is blocked because many Ukrainian and foreign nationals try to leave the country from there.
“This is a problem area. We have tried to calibrate the evacuation plans taking into account the experience on the ground, certain border crossings are more effective, some are clearly problematic. Those located near the borders with Hungary, Romania and the Slovak Republic, have been phased to the respective border points,” said Mr Shringla.
Speaking about the difficulty related to Russia’s ongoing military operation in Ukraine, he said: “Our embassy in Kiev is operational, it is clear that the austerity measures in the area are making regular activities difficult. We are aware of the number of Indian citizens, especially students, who are still in cities in eastern Ukraine and southeastern Ukraine Unfortunately, these areas are still in conflict zones and generally considered unsafe for people to move around freely. We will try appropriate evacuation modalities for them. As soon as it is feasible, our embassy in Kiev will try to keep in touch, we have also tried to keep in touch on a daily basis. We will continue to advise them as we go forward.”