India denies its students are being held hostage in Ukraine

India has refuted claims its nationals are being used as human shields by the Ukrainian military in the country, after Russia made the allegation on social media.

“We have not received any reports of any hostage situation regarding any student,” India’s foreign ministry said on Thursday, one week after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The foreign ministry responded to claims made by the Russian embassy in India, which claimed in a tweet that Ukrainian security forces were holding Indian students hostage as human shields and preventing them from “leaving for Russia”.

“According to the latest information, these students are actually taken hostage by the Ukrainian security forces, who use them as a human shield & in every possible way prevent them from leaving for Russia. Responsibility in this case lies entirely w/ the Kiev authorities (sic),” said the tweet.

India’s foreign ministry added that its embassy in Ukraine has been in constant touch with its nationals in the country as it tries to evacuate all of them to safety.

“We have requested support from the Ukrainian authorities in arranging special trains for taking out students from Kharkiv and neighboring areas to the western part of the country,” the ministry said.

India has by far the largest share of foreign nationals studying in Ukraine — about a quarter of all 76,000 international students there, according to data from the Ukrainian government. The issue of getting them home safely has been a major talking point in India for days, with some criticizing the Modi administration for not doing enough.

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Indian officials said they have been coordinating evacuation operations with countries across Europe, including Russia itself, as well as Romania, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova, to initiate the safe return of the students. Ukraine’s own airspace and public transport remain fractured because of the conflict.

But there are still reports of hundreds of Indian students struggling to leave the country, and one Indian medical student was killed in Kharkiv while he was outside a grocery store to collect food on Tuesday after Russian troops shelled a key administrative building.

Ukraine’s two largest cities — Kharkiv and the capital Kyiv — are being bombarded by the Russian military and have been witnessing missile strikes, gunfighting, shelling and exchanges of fire from both sides, leading to significant civilian casualties.

Places Ukrainian refugees are seeking shelter

(Press Association Images)

Kherson, in southern Ukraine, became the first major city to fall to Russian troops late on Wednesday.

Facing increasing criticism from thousands of Indian parents, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi spoke to Russian president Vladimir Putin late on Wednesday to carve out a plan for the safe evacuation of students and other Indian nationals from Ukraine.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015.

Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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