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Headed to Poland, Indian students a step closer, to be flown home today

The Indian students from Ukraine’s Sumy city, among the last major groups to be evacuated from the east European country amid the Russian invasion, will likely be flown home Thursday from Poland.

Announcing the development Wednesday, the Indian Embassy in Ukraine said the students — who had been stranded in Sumy State University in northeast Ukraine — have boarded a special train from Lviv to Poland on the western border.

Indian Ambassador Partha Satpathy flagged off the special train. “Ambassador flags off special train with 600 Indian students from Sumy University at Lviv Railway Station. They will travel to Poland and are expected to board evacuation flights to India tomorrow. Be Safe Be Strong,” the embassy posted on Twitter.

The embassy added in another tweet that Ukrainian authorities helped arrange the train. “Mission will continue to facilitate their movement westwards. Bringing back our students safely and securely will remain our priority,” it tweeted.

Mahtab, a student who is part of the homebound group, told The Indian Express over the phone: “We reached Lviv in the afternoon and are on our way to the Poland border.”

Evacuating the students from Sumy had emerged as a major challenge for the government, which has been bringing back Indian nationals from the besieged nation through Air India and Indian Air Force aircraft under “Operation Ganga”.

Till Tuesday, 83 flights have brought back over 17,100 Indians.

With Operation Ganga reaching its last leg, the government asked the remaining stranded Indians in Ukraine to make use of the humanitarian corridors as an announcement of another such corridor is “uncertain”.

The evacuation from Sumy came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, seeking their support to create a safe passage for the students.

Sumy is located 350 km east of Kyiv and 180 km northwest of Kharkiv. The city, located near the Russia border, has witnessed intense hostilities over the past several days.

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla spoke to the Ukrainian deputy foreign minister as well as the Russian and Ukrainian envoys in Delhi.

Sources said a “whole of the government” approach was followed for the evacuation mission under which multiple teams in Delhi, Ukraine and Russia worked round the clock.

They said around 50 Indian officials, including a significant number of Russian-speaking diplomats, were sent to Indian embassies in Ukraine, Romania, Poland and Hungary to coordinate the evacuation process.

Sources said at least 15 students from a number of countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Tunisia were able to leave Sumy in the Indian convoy because of India’s efforts.

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