Should I stay or go?: Uncertainty for Indian students amid Ukraine crisis

ukraine crisis
Amid the Ukraine crisis, Indian students have not received any directives to leave the country while other nations have issued warnings for their citizens to leave Ukraine immediately. Source: Alexander Nemenov/AFP

Several countries, including the US, UK and Australia, have issued warnings to their citizens to make their way out of Ukraine for their safety over fears of a Russian invasion. Amid the Ukraine crisis, the White House said the Russian invasion could begin “at any time”. Indian students, however, claimed that they have been left in the dark without any directives from the Indian authorities about whether they should leave in the event Russia invades Ukraine.

Ukraine is a popular study abroad destination for Indian students. Current reports say some 20,000 Indian students are studying in the country. Data from the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine shows that the three top countries of international students in Ukraine are India, followed by Morocco and Turkmenistan.

According to The Hindu, the Embassy of India in Kyiv has contacted Indian citizens based in Ukraine and collected information on those who may require evacuation in case a conflict flares up between Russia and Ukraine. 

Shivam Dubey, a medicine student in Ternopil, told the daily that he was contacted by the Indian Embassy in Kyiv about three weeks back to fill up a form. “The form contains details like our location in Ukraine, and other relevant information which may be used in case a quick mobilisation of Indian citizens in Ukraine is required,” he was quoted saying. 

Ternopil is far away from the eastern border region of Donbas where largescale mobilisation of military personnel and heavy weapons has taken place on the Russian side.

Dubey said there is no sense of panic among Ukrainians regarding an invasion as of now, and that normal life continues to be unaffected by the military build-up along the borders with Russia. However, he observed that Ukraine has been readying its people for resisting Russian forces. 

Ukrainian diplomatic sources have reportedly called for calm and indicated that media reports and talks of a possible invasion by Russia are exaggerated. India’s Ministry of External Affairs did not respond to The Hindu’s question on whether India planned to ask citizens to leave Ukraine at the earliest.

ukraine crisis

The Pentagon has ordered the departure of its troops amid the Ukraine crisis. Source: Allison Joyrce/AFP

Ukraine crisis: What Indian students should know

Two Indian students told RepublicWorld.com that Indians are unaware of the Indian government’s action plan. In an interview with Republic TV, an Indian student said things on the ground are normal despite Ukraine being a potential war zone. 

Tushar Mittal, an Indian medical student from Kharkiv, told the portal: “Yes, there is panic amongst Indian people. As every country…US, UK are calling back their citizens and have given 24 to 48 hours to evacuate people.”

He claimed that there was no information from the Indian embassy. “There are many Indian medical students in Ukraine, so what should we do in such a situation? There is no news from the embassy while the situation is worsening by the day. If a war-like situation arises, we don’t know how we will manage,” he said.

Vinay Sheokand, also at Kharkiv, said the Indian authorities had urged its citizens in Ukraine to report or contact any sort of adversity to the embassy. He said: “Ukrainians seem to be quite normal as they are habituated to living under such situation. They don’t panic until the blood starts to fly and the shell hits the ground but Indians are not used to such adversities.”

Sheokand’s concern isn’t abated as the US embassy, as well as the prime ministers of Australia and Israel, are among those who have directed their people to leave the country at the earliest amid the Ukraine crisis. 

“While the US has started to evacuate its people, there is no official word from the Indian Embassy or the GoI. No one is taking full responsibility. If the situation was normal then it is fine that you sit back and do your work but if the situation is not normal, give us the proper information at least. Not by merely asking for forms but actually taking hold of the situation,” said the MBBS student.

Recent reports say Russia is positioning its military around the country, giving it the means to attack the country from multiple directions.