After India Issues Advisory, Confusion Among Students; Ukrainian Envoy Calls It 'Balanced'

Some students pointed out that they could not secure flights, while others said they had to attend offline classes and could not leave.

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New Delhi: Following India’s advisory for its citizens to consider leaving Ukraine, medical students studying in the country are confused about future steps, even as the Ukrainian ambassador termed India’s official counsel as a “balanced position”.

On Tuesday morning, the Indian embassy in Kyiv issued an advisory: “In view of recent uncertainties of the current situation in Ukraine, Indian nationals in Ukraine, particularly students whose stay is not essential, may consider leaving temporarily.”

It was the first such advisory from the Indian embassy issued during the current crisis, which has taken relations between Russia and the West to their most fraught since the end of the Cold War.

Immediately after the embassy issued the advisory, there was a spate of responses from Indian students on social media platforms pointing out that they could not secure flights.

How can we leave now when there is lack of flights?? Why we were not informed about it earlier?” asked a student on the embassy’s post on Facebook. 

There was also confusion on whether the advisory applies to all students – even those whose universities do not conduct online classes. Another student wrote that the advisory puts the onus on the students to leave Ukraine, “who are wilting under the pressure of University to continue studies and the threat lingering over them”.

Another medical student demanded that there should be a more clear advisory. “Don’t do politics with students. None of students are free here. University is taking offline classes. So don’t be in safe side and please take a confident decision,” wrote another student in a Ukrainian medical university. 

With many complaining about high ticket prices, there were calls for the Indian government to organise repatriation flights. It has been 

With a large community of around 20,000 Indian students in Ukraine, there had been a lot of pressure on the Indian embassy in Kyiv to provide guidance as the West and Russia continued to sabre-rattle over Ukraine.

Last Friday, the US government had said that Russia had decided to invade Ukraine “any day”. This was followed by phone calls between Russian and US leadership, even as European leaders also travelled to Moscow and Kyiv to douse high tensions. On Monday, the US announced that it was shifting its embassy from Kyiv to another city, Lviv, due to “dramatic acceleration in the build-up of Russian forces”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy issued a statement on Monday night on Facebook, saying that he heard that Russia’s invasion would be on February 16. However, with the media reports taking his remarks at face value, Ukrainian officials had to step in within hours to state that the president, a former comedian, was being sarcastic.

On Tuesday, there were signs that both sides were trying to create space for diplomatic talks to continue.

In contrast to previous advisories in conflict zones like Afghanistan, the Indian advisory on Ukraine is still a recommendation, with several caveats. It also specifically mentioned that the Indian embassy in Ukraine would continue to function.

The Ukrainian ambassador to India, Igor Polikha, told Indian media that the advisory was a “balanced position” as it did “not create panic” unlike other countries that have even packed up their diplomatic personnel. “We highly appreciate the balanced position of the Indian government, which has not fallen prey to warmongering,” he stated, implicitly criticising the US government.

A Ukrainian embassy official told The Wire that they appreciated that India continued to keep open its diplomatic mission in Kyiv, unlike other countries. “The advisory also does not make it mandatory for Indian students to leave Ukraine,” he pointed out.

When asked about the situation inside his country, the Ukrainian envoy stated that it was “difficult, but not critical”. “My message is you should closely monitor the situation. Situation is difficult, but you should not believe all the panicky media reports,” Polikha said.