Following his return from UP, PM Modi held detailed talks with external affairs minister S Jaishankar and key officials where he said that ensuring the safety of Indian students and evacuating them was the top priority. Government sources said that during the meeting that lasted over two hours, steps to enhance cooperation with countries neighbouring Ukraine were discussed to expedite evacuation.
Evacuation from the exit point on the Polish border is proving “problematic” because of lakhs of Ukrainians and others seeking to get out, foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said. Indian students have been asked to proceed towards a railway station from where they can reach Hungarian capital Budapest. Shringla said Moldova has agreed to set up an exit point for Indians after Jaishankar spoke to his counterpart.
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An MEA team was on the way to Moldova to set up a facilitation centre, which is expected to start functioning from Monday.
Shringla called the ambassadors of Russia and Ukraine to highlight India’s concern about the well-being of its citizens, especially students. He said the response from both diplomats was reassuring.
Shringla said the Red Cross has agreed to help with the evacuation and it is expected to gather momentum with a series of scheduled flights. He said 1,000 Indians were evacuated on four flights over Saturday and Sunday, while an equal number are scheduled for places from where people can be airlifted.
Five Air India wide-body planes (four to Bucharest and one to Budapest) and two IndiGo flights (one each to Budapest and Bucharest) will operate till March 2 as part of Operation Ganga — the mission code for the evacuation of Indians from Ukraine.
AI sent a Dreamliner to Bucharest on Sunday and came back with 198 Indians. It was the private airline’s fourth evacuation sortie. More Indian carriers like AI Express could operate flights under Operation Ganga and fly home Indians. “All Indian carriers are willing to participate by operating one-stop flights like IndiGo is doing. That is not the problem. For national duty like this, regular flights can be curtailed to divert planes to east Europe,” said an airline official. India is in touch with Ukraine’s east European neighbours.