Union Ministers Hardeep Puri, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kiren Rijiju and VK Singh will travel to the countries surrounding Ukraine as special envoys to help with the evacuation process of Indian nationals, including students, still stuck in the country under Russian attack, the Ministry of External Affairs has said.

With thousands of Indian nationals, many of them students, still stuck in Ukraine, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla briefed the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs about the measures taken to evacuate them. Hundreds of Indians are reportedly camping at various borders of the country. “We were told that all students will be brought back to the country in this week. We were also informed about India’s position at international forums on the situation,” a member said.

About 4,000 Indian citizens left Ukraine following advisories issued by the Indian Embassy in Kyiv before the military strikes, Shringla told journalists at a briefing on Monday. “We estimated that around 15,000 Indian citizens were left in Ukraine when Operation Ganga (the Indian government’s evacuation operation) commenced. ....So far under Operation Ganga around 1,000 citizens have been flown out of Romania and Hungary and another 1,000 have been evacuated from Ukraine through the land routes,” Shringla said. Flights for the evacuees have been organised, he added.

The government is  aware of students caught in cities in East and South East of Ukraine. “Unfortunately these continue to be live conflict areas and it is deemed unsafe for people to move around freely. We will try to find evacuation modalities for them once feasible,” Shringla said.

The MEA also called in envoys of Russia and Ukraine separately and conveyed its deep concerns on the safety of our citizens. “We have shared the location where Indian students and Indian citizens are concentrated for ensuring their protection. Both Ambassadors took note of our concerns and assured us that they are very cognisant of safety and security of Indian citizens,” Shringla said adding that locations had also been shared with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

PM chairs high-level meetings

The decision to send the four Ministers to aid the evacuation process was taken at a high-level meeting of top Ministers and bureaucrats chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Ukrainian crisis on Monday morning, sources said.  Modi chaired a meeting of Ministers and officials on Sunday night as well.

 “The PM said that safe evacuation of students and other Indian nationals from Ukraine is a priority for the country and it needed to be well supervised. That is why a decision was taken to send the four Ministers to the bordering countries,” a source told Business Line.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba were among those who attended the PM’s meeting, the source added.

It is expected that Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia will be in Romania and Moldova, Law & Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju will go to Slovakia, Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri will go to Hungary and Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Road, Transport & Highways VK Singh will be in Poland to supervise the evacuation process.

While the Indian government has already operated six flights evacuating Indians from the region, there are thousands of students still stuck in the country under invasion from Russia.

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