India urges ceasefire in Ukrainian city to evacuate students

NEW DELHI, March 4 (Reuters) - India urged Ukraine and Russia on Friday to impose a ceasefire in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Sumy to help evacuate hundreds of Indian students trapped there amid worsening conflict.

Around 700 Indian students have been unable to leave Sumy after Russian troops invaded Ukraine in late February, with their evacuation hampered because of fighting in the area, foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi told reporters.

"We want a safe route for our students," Bagchi said, "We are looking at all options."

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Mahtab Raza, who posted a plea for help on social media on Thursday surrounded by a large group of fellow students, told Reuters on Friday that there was no running water where they were staying and they had run out of money.

"We are just waiting for the government," he said, holding back tears. "We trust the government of India ... It (Sumy) is a very beautiful city. We didn't expect something like this to happen in Ukraine, but this is happening. It's not good."

In his earlier post he said there had been shelling and air strikes on the city that made it too dangerous to venture out.

Students react as they leave the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport after a special Air India flight carrying stranded Indian citizens from Ukraine landed in Mumbai, India, February 26, 2022. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File Photo

"Everywhere (there are) snipers on buildings," he told Reuters. "It is not safe to go outside. We are very panicked. For seven days we have not slept properly. We are not safe, our condition is very bad."

Russia and Ukraine agreed on Thursday to the need for humanitarian corridors to help civilians escape Moscow's eight-day-old invasion. Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine a "special military operation." read more

A group of around 1,000 students who had fled northeastern Ukraine's Kharkiv, where one Indian medical student was killed this week, were being moved by bus towards the country's western borders, Bagchi said.

Some 300 Indian students still remained in the heavily-bombed city, he said.

Before the conflict flared, Indians made up around a quarter of the 76,000 foreign students in Ukraine, the largest number from any overseas country.

More than 10,000 Indian nationals have already been flown back to India, with another 16 evacuation flights scheduled in the next 24 hours, Bagchi said.

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Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal and Neha Arora; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Mike Collett-White

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