India on Sunday advised its citizens living in Ukraine to temporarily leave the country if their stay is not essential. The Indian Embassy in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev issued the advisory “in view of the continued high levels of tensions and uncertainties” in the country.

“Indian students are advised to also get in touch with respective student contractors for updates on charter flights, and also continue to follow embassy Facebook, website and Twitter for any update,” the embassy said.

Since early this year, Russia has amassed over 1 lakh troops at the Ukrainian border. Reports also said that 30,000 more are engaged in exercises in Belarus, close to its border with Ukraine.

Amid continuing tensions, the Indian government had announced on February 17 that it has lifted the restrictions on the number of flights between India and Ukraine. The Ministry of Civil Aviation said that airlines have been told to increase the number of flights, and added that it is co-ordinating the situation with Ministry of External Affairs.

Air India will operate three special flights to Ukraine’s Boryspil International Airport on February 22, 24 and 26, NDTV reported. The Ministry of External Affairs has also set up a dedicated control room, which Indians in Ukraine can contact.

According to a document on India-Ukraine relations published by the Ministry of External Affairs in 2020, a “small but vibrant” Indian community lives in Ukraine. There were about 18,000 Indian students in the east European country, mainly in the field of medicine, according to the document.

Russia-Ukraine tensions

Russia and Ukraine have been engaged in a conflict since 2014, when the former country annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and backed separatist rebellions in the country’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Amid the current troop build-up, Moscow has maintained that it has no plans to invade Ukraine. But, the United States and allies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, have rejected Russian claims that it was pulling back troops from the border.

On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sought a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to resolve the crisis between the two countries. Russia is yet to respond to the proposal.

Zelenskyy made the statement hours after separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine ordered a full military mobilisation on Saturday. Shelling incidents across the line between government forces and separatists have increased sharply since last week, reported Reuters.