The incidents that unfolded on February 24 in Ukraine have left the whole world dumbstruck. While the country has been in conflict with its much more powerful neighbour for a while now, on Thursday, Russian began full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The crisis is one that Indians cannot ignore, owing to the sizeable population of Indians who live in Ukraine. A majority of them are young students. According to the 2020 data by the government of India, there are around 18,000 Indian students studying in various universities in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government estimates that in 2019, there were 80,000 international students in the country; almost a quarter of them — 22.9 per cent — are Indians (approximately 18,320). Moroccan students form the next sizeable group of international students. However, their proportion is less than half of that of Indian students at 10.23 per cent. Students from neighbouring Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan form another 6.8 per cent and 6.6 per cent respectively, and 5.4 per cent of International students are Nigerians.

The Ukrainian government data also says that the international student population from 158 countries is spread across around 5 educational institutions in the country. Two universities in the city of in north eastern Ukraine — Kharkiv National Medical University and VN Karazin Kharkiv National University — are the most popular among international students. Each housed close to 5,000 non-Ukrainian students, as of 2020.

The number of Indian students who went abroad to study increased until 2020, according to the latest data available with the Ministry of External Affairs. While 5,88,931 Indian students went abroad to study in 2019, the number was 2,61,406 in 2020 despite the pandemic. In 2021, until February 28, 71,769 students went abroad to study.

Considering the escalation of the situation, the Indian Embassy has been constantly issuing advisories for Indian students. In the last message, they were asked to move to a nearby bomb shelter. Hopes of repatriating them soon has shattered as Ukraine closed its airspace on Thursday.

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