The foreign ministry said today that an Indian student was killed in shelling in Ukraine, as it asked Russia and Ukraine to provide safe passage for thousands of nationals caught in the heart of the conflict. Naveen Shekharappa, a final-year medical student from Haveri, Karnataka, killed on Tuesday when Russian forces detonated a bomb in a government facility.
“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. We convey our deepest condolences to the family,” tweeted the External Affairs Ministry.
He added that Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla “was calling in the ambassadors of Russia and Ukraine to reiterate India’s demand for urgent safe passage for Indian nationals whoa re still in Kharkiv and cities in other conflict zones”. It is imperative that Russia and Ukraine respond to the need for safe passage urgently, said sources.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked with the student’s father and convened his third meeting on the Ukraine situation in three days. He had sent four ministers to Ukraine’s neighboring countries earlier to arrange evacuations.
Videos released today in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, showed considerable damage caused by a Russian military attack began last Thursday. This morning, advancing forces bombarded the city’s center plaza after hitting a government building.
When Naveen Shekharappa was struck, he was in line outside a grocery shop.
Shortly after the student’s death, Pooja Praharaj, a student coordinator in Kharkiv, talked to NDTV.
“He lived near the Governor’s House and had been standing in the queue for food. Suddenly there was an air strike that blew up the Governor’s House and he was killed,” Ms Praharaj said.
According to the student coordinator, his phone was picked up by a Ukrainian woman. “She stated the owner of this phone is being transported to the morgue,” she shared, speaking through his phone.
The Indian Embassy in Ukraine asked all citizens, especially students, to leave Kyiv “urgently today, by trains or any other means available,” this morning.
“The deteriorating situation in Kharkiv is a matter of grave concern. The safety and security of Indian nationals in that city is of utmost priority to Government,” government sources said.
A long convoy of Russian military vehicles was seen on highways northwest of Kyiv, according to satellite images. The images released by a US-based space technology company show hundreds of tanks, towed artillery, armored, and logistical vehicles.
In Ukraine, over 16,000 Indian students remain stuck. Since the Russian invasion began last Thursday, many students have published photographs and videos from subterranean bunkers, metro stations, and bomb shelters on social media. Approximately 9,000 Indian citizens have departed on separate special aircraft.
Several Indian students are stranded in eastern Ukraine, which has been most hit by Russia’s military onslaught, and they are finding it impossible to access the western borders by road. Students have also been going to the border in sub-zero temperatures in the hopes of crossing and catching a flight back home.
The embassy had encouraged students to proceed to the Kyiv railway station yesterday, where Ukraine had planned special evacuation trains to transport them to the western area.
Many students claimed that they were denied access to the trains or that officials abused them.
After months of anxiety over the former Soviet republic’s closeness to NATO, Russia started an invasion of Ukraine on Thursday.