Representative image | Photo: AFP
Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday assured Prime Minister Narendra Modi that his forces are doing everything to evacuate the stranded Indian citizens, mostly students, from the war-torn eastern Ukrainian city of Sumy, according to his office.
During the 50-minute telephonic conversation, Prime Minister Modi conveyed his "deep concern" over the safety and security of the Indian students stuck in Sumy city and sought their evacuation at the earliest.
Around 700 Indian students are stranded in Sumy amid intense fighting between Russian and Ukrainian troops and India has been urging both sides to create a "humanitarian corridor" for their safe evacuation.
President Putin, in the telephone conversation with Prime Minister Modi, said that Russian military personnel are doing everything to evacuate Indian citizens from Sumy, the state-owned TASS news agency reported, citing the Kremlin.
"It has been noted that the Indian students who were held by the radicals in Kharkov managed to leave the city only as a result of strong international pressure on the Kiev authorities," the Kremlin alleged.
"Russian military personnel are making every effort to ensure the evacuation of Indian citizens from the city of Sumy,” it said.
Modi thanked the Russian side "for the measures taken to ensure the return of his compatriots to their homeland,” it added.
On Saturday, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in New Delhi that India's main focus is now on evacuating the students from Sumy, and that the safe exit of Indians from Kharkiv and Pisochyn is almost complete.
"We are deeply concerned about Indian students in Sumy, Ukraine. Have strongly pressed Russian and Ukrainian governments through multiple channels for an immediate ceasefire to create a safe corridor for our students," Bagchi said.
Bagchi also said the main challenge remains the ongoing shelling and violence in Sumy and lack of transportation.
Last week, the Indian students in Sumy had posted videos saying they have decided to leave for the Russian border and that the Indian government and the embassy in Ukraine will be responsible if anything happens to them.
Following the embassy's assurance, the students did not leave the eastern Ukrainian city that has seen intense fighting between Russian and Ukrainian troops.
Putin told Modi that Ukrainian nationalists "continue to prevent the withdrawal of civilians from dangerous zones,” the Kremlin said.
"Vladimir Putin informed the Prime Minister of India that, given the aggravation of the humanitarian situation, the Russian Armed Forces announced the introduction of a regime of silence today and the opening of humanitarian corridors," it said.
Asked about Putin's comments on Thursday that some Indians are being held hostage by Ukrainian forces, Bagchi had on Friday again rejected the claim, saying India does not have any such information or reports.
On Thursday too, Bagchi rejected claims by both Russia and Ukraine that Indian students are being held hostage in Kharkiv.
It was the third telephonic conversation between the two leaders after the military conflict began in Ukraine on February 24.
India has brought back nearly 16,000 of its nationals in 76 flights under mission "Operation Ganga" which was launched on February 26 following Russia's military aggression against Ukraine, according to officials in New Delhi.
India has been urging both Russian and Ukrainian authorities to create a safe passage for the students to either move to the Russian border or to western Ukraine for their exit to Romania, Hungary or Poland.
Prime Minister Modi has expressed deep concern about the ongoing conflict and resultant humanitarian crisis and reiterated his call for immediate cessation of violence.