THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It was around 3 pm local time on Thursday that around 700 students of Sumy State University in Ukraine received a WhatsApp message that efforts by Indian authorities for their evacuation through the Russian border, just 65 km away, were underway. The message from Indian officials, which was conveyed to the students through their caretaker, however, added that the evacuation could happen only if Ukrainian authorities permitted their travel to the border from the north-eastern city of Sumy.
Students of Sumy State University have been eagerly awaiting their evacuation after the news a few days ago that India was engaged in efforts to persuade Russia to open its borders for their safe passage. They had even prepared Indian flags to be unfurled at their evacuation point. But Thursday’s message came as a dampener.
“Our caretaker informed us that Indian authorities are at Sudzha in Russia close to the Ukraninan border with buses for our evacuation. However, he was told by Indian officials that we cannot travel without permission from Ukranian authorities,” Krishnanand V, a fourth year medical student, told TNIE over the phone from Sumy.
According to information from ground zero, fighting has once again intensified in the suburbs of the city. Since last Thursday, students have been shuttling from their hostel rooms to bunkers. They have also been advised to switch off all lights after dusk for their safety. The students have not ventured out for the past few days as frequent warnings of shelling and air raids are being issued.
“We are afraid that we may land in a situation where we are told to just to pack our bags and flee the battle zone as was seen in Kharkiv. Since fighting has intensified, venturing to the Russian border is extremely risky and cannot be done without proper permission of authorities here,” he added, amid sounds of shelling being heard in the vicinity.
Back home in Kozhikode, Rani B, Krishnanand’s mother said it was a sad situation that the students were so close to being evacuated but are awaiting permission from Ukrainian authorities. “We urge the Union government to persuade the Ukrainian authorities to allow travel of students to the border as a special case,” she said adding that the situation could turn worse if their stay is prolonged in the war-torn country.