Final safe evacuation of trapped students from Sumy during the Ukraine crisis

KOCHI: After 13 days of uncertainty, as many as 694 Indian students, including nearly 400 Malayalis, finally left the war-torn Sumy city in Ukraine as the Indian embassy managed to successfully carry out their evacuation when Russia announced a ceasefire in five cities again on Tuesday. Ukraine’s ministry of external affairs on Tuesday morning confirmed that a humanitarian corridor was opened following the ceasefire announced by Russia. Following this, the students were evacuated in more than 10 buses that were waiting at the Sumy State University since Monday morning.Sources said that the students were taken to Poltava city, which is around 180km away from Sumy. However, considering the war situation, the convoy did not take a direct route to Poltava. According to the Ukrainian government, the humanitarian corridor from Sumy to Poltava, which was active from 10am to 9pm on Tuesday, passed via Holubivka, Lokhvytsia and Lubny and it took more than 7 hours to reach the city.“After the evacuation mission failed on Monday following the ceasefire violation, we were awaiting directions from the authorities. The buses that reached Sumy State University on Monday were parked in the campus and we were ready to move out anytime. We are happy that we finally got out of Sumy and crossed many major checkpoints,” said Vaishnav R Menon, a fourth-year medical student and a native of Kochi.Earlier, there was disturbing news of bombing in the humanitarian corridor that reportedly killed 21 civilians, including two children. But the students said that they did not face any issues.“The buses are crowded and many of us have to stand throughout the journey. We are sparingly using our water and food supplies. But all are happy that we got out,” said a student who wished to remain anonymous. The Ukrainian army vehicles and Indian embassy officials too have reportedly escorted the convoy. The plan is to take them to Western Ukraine, preferably the Hungarian or Polish border, in trains from Poltava. The students are expected to reach the border on Wednesday and they might have to wait there to cross the border. The embassy is making all arrangements. Earlier on Tuesday morning, the Indian embassy in Kyiv issued an advisory to the Indians urging them to make maximum use of the humanitarian corridor within the deadline to leave the war-affected areas.“Considering the security situation, the establishment of the next humanitarian corridor is uncertain. All stranded Indian nationals are urged to make use of this opportunity and evacuate using train/vehicles or any other available means of transport giving due consideration to safety,” the advisory said.

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