An Indian student died in shelling in Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv on Tuesday, the Ministry of External Affairs said. The development came hours after the Indian embassy in Ukraine issued an advisory, asking citizens stranded in Kyiv to “urgently” leave through trains or any other available means.
Indian students in Kharkiv identified the deceased as Naveen Shekarappa Gyanagoudar, from Chalageri in Haveri district of Karnataka. He was a fourth-year student at the National Medical University in Kharkiv.
He died on Tuesday morning after he left a metro station, where people have been taking shelter, to buy groceries from a store close by while heavy shelling was going on in the city.
Gyanagoudar’s friends confirmed the news of his death, Nasir Khuehami, national spokesperson of the Jammu and Kashmir Students Association, told Scroll.in.
Khuehami was in touch with the deceased and a group of Indian medical students in Kharkiv. “He had been trying to find a safe route out of Kharkiv with his friends,” he added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai spoke to the student’s father over the phone, reported ANI.
Bommai told the student’s father, Gyanagoudar, that he would ensure that his son’s body is brought back to India, according to PTI.
Gyanagoudar told Bommai that his son would call him up regularly and had spoken to him on Tuesday morning as well.
The student’s uncle, Ujjanagouda, said that Naveen Shekarappa Gyanagoudar told his father on Tuesday morning that there was no food or water in the bunker where he was sheltering with other Indian students.
Indian politicians, Ukraine condole death
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi mourned the student’s death and reiterated the need for the government to urgently formulate an evacuation plan. “Every minute is precious,” he wrote on Twitter.
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, said the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled central government was more interested in campaigning for the Assembly elections in five states than planning for the evacuation of stranded Indian students, reported PTI.
He said that there were global apprehensions of a war. “The Indian government can’t shy away from its responsibility,” added.
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi urged the Indian government to bring back Indian students at the earliest. Aam Adami Party President Arvind Kejriwal, too, hoped the remaining stranded Indian students return home safely.
An estimated 2,000-5,000 Indian students are still stranded in Kharkiv where they are seeking shelter in basement bunkers and metro stations. Gyanagoudar’s death has added to their fear and desperation to leave the city.
In a series of tweets, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla was contacting Russian and Ukrainian ambassadors to reiterate India’s demand for the urgent and safe return of Indian citizens stuck in Kharkiv and other conflict zones.
“Similar action is also being undertaken by our Ambassadors in Russia and Ukraine,” Baghchi added.
Ukraine expressed its “deepest condolences” over the death of the Indian student and appealed to world leaders, including Modi, to use their resources and get Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the invasion, reported PTI.
Ukrainian envoy Igor Polikha said the Russian military is now targeting civilian areas as well. Polikha compared the invasion of Ukraine to “massacre by Mughals against Rajputs”, according to PTI.
India’s advisory to leave the Ukrainian capital was given on Tuesday amid reports of air raids sirens going off in Kyiv and residents being told to go to nearby shelters, according to The Kyiv Independent.
British intelligence said that Russian forces have increased their use of artillery in northern Kyiv areas and in the vicinity of Kharkiv and Chernihiv.
“The use of heavy artillery in densely populated urban areas greatly increases the risk of civilian casualties,” an update from the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence said.
On Tuesday, Russia continued its military operation in Ukraine for the sixth day as satellite images showed a 64-kilometre-long convoy of Russian army vehicles lined up around the northern part of Kyiv city.
On February 27, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla had said that India is ensuring the safety of its citizens stranded in areas, including capital Kyiv, where fighting between the armies has picked up.
India is looking to evacuate its citizens through land routes after Ukraine closed its airspace for civilian aircraft. So far, the government’s evacuation plan has been to make the citizens cross over to Ukraine’s neighbouring countries such as Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia and then fly them to India. A route from Moldova was also opened on Monday.