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Russia-Ukraine invasion: “More than 3000 Indians held hostage” says Russian President Putin

Hours after India declared it has “not received any reports of any hostage crisis involving any student,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the Ukrainian military is holding more than

Hours after India declared it has “not received any reports of any hostage crisis involving any student,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the Ukrainian military is holding more than 3,000 Indian citizens at the Kharkiv train station in eastern Ukraine.

Officials in New Delhi described it as a challenging situation in a battle zone, with inhabitants hunkering down in bunkers and underground shelters and movement restricted owing to a curfew-like situation on the streets.

The Associated Press reported shortly after Putin’s statements that Ukrainian and Russian officials had achieved a tentative deal to set up safe corridors to evacuate civilians and supply humanitarian aid.

In its readout of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s phone conversation with Putin on Wednesday night, the Kremlin also mentioned Indians being held hostage.

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Thousands of young people, students studying in Ukraine’s colleges, and more than 3,000 Indian citizens were held for more than one day at the railway station in Kharkiv, Putin stated Thursday night in Moscow, speaking in Russian. In addition, Putin revealed that 576 people are being imprisoned in Sumy.

The Ministry of External Affairs reaffirmed at a press conference hours later that there was no hostage issue and that India had no such reports. MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla spoke to the Ukrainian deputy foreign minister late Wednesday evening on the safe evacuation of Indian students from Kharkiv.

Around 4,000 Indians, mostly medical students, are said to be trapped in Ukraine’s eastern and north-eastern regions, close to the Russian border.

According to the MEA, over 1,000 Indians have fled Kharkiv for nearby Pisochyn as a result of its alert issued a day earlier. According to Bagchi, a few hundred Indians are still believed to be trapped in Kharkiv, and India is closely monitoring events in the city as well as the situation in other eastern Ukraine combat zones.

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As the Russian onslaught on Kharkiv began on Thursday, the Indian embassy in Ukraine asked all Indian nationals in the city to fill out an online form as soon as possible.

Following the announcement by the Kremlin on Wednesday night that Indian students in Kharkiv had been “taken hostage” by Ukrainian security forces who were using them as a “human shield” to “prevent them from leaving for Russian territory,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry “urgently called on the governments of India, Pakistan, China, and other countries whose students have become hostages of the Russian armed aggression in Kharkiv and Sumy, to demand from Moscow that it allow the opening of a humanitarian corridor.”

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First Published: 4th March, 2022 8:55 IST

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