Despite challenges we ensured return of 22,500 citizens: Jaishankar

Despite challenges we ensured return of 22,500 citizens: Jaishankar

New Delhi, March 15 (IANS) External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Tuesday said that despite challenges posed by the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the government ensured that about 22,500 citizens have returned home safely from the war-torn country.

In a statement in the Rajya Sabha, he said that a large number of students continue to stay in Ukraine, adding that 18,000 citizens were caught in the conflict.

Referring to the steps taken by the government to evacuate Indian nationals including students, he further said that the MEA control room was ramped up to 100 personnel and strategies were chalked out to bring back citizens via neighbouring countries of Ukraine.

He also said that the MEA control room received over 13,000 calls and 9,000 e-mails while Russian speaking officials were sent to Ukraine to assist the evacuations.

“Members of the House should appreciate the work of diplomats who went beyond the call of duty to facilitate students and citizens. Under Operation Ganga, 90 flights were operated including 20 Air Force flights. The 70 flights were operated by the private airlines like Air India, Air India Express, Vistara, IndGo and others,” Jaishankar said.

The Indian Air Force rose to the occasion and operated 20 flights under Operation Ganga, he added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself spoke to President Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to seek support for Indian nationals, the External Affairs Minister said. “PM Modi, Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla and myself, were in touch with counterparts in Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary,” he said.

The Prime Minister reviewed the situation on a daily basis and sent four senior Union Ministers to the neighbouring countries of Ukraine to oversee the evacuation mission.

Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia was sent to Romania and Moldova, Kiren Rijiju to Slovakia, Hardeep Singh Puri to Hungary and Gen V.K. Singh (Retd) to Poland.

The Minister also said that the most challenging evacuation of Indian students were from Kharkiv and Sumy as the there was a chance that the students might get caught in the crossfire.

He also said that the Ukrainian authority provided trains and buses to Indian students to reach bordering countries and also provided travel documents in a short time for those who lost their passports.

During the evacuation process, the Indian nationals, NGOs and individual Indian businessmen in neighbouring countries helped the Indian students for their stay in those countries.

During the entire period, the Indian embassy officials were in touch with Indians and Ukrainian authorities to provide all possible help such as food, shelter and medicines.

Besides, the Minister also informed the House that India flew Ukrainian nationals from India to Poland and flew out 147 citizens from 18 countries during the evacuation operations including the neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Nepal.

Mentioning the major implications of the Ukraine conflict, Jaishankar said that this has major economic implications; its impact on energy and commodity prices is already visible. “The disruption of the global supply chain is expected to be significant, India has substantial dealings with both Russia and Ukraine and assessment in this regard by the government is underway,” he said.

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