Subscribe to Secularism is a Womens Issue

Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Home > Uncategorised > Ukraine: Asked to Leave Kharkiv Urgently, Indian Students Say Not Allowed (...)

Ukraine: Asked to Leave Kharkiv Urgently, Indian Students Say Not Allowed to Board Trains

Not all refugees are equal

Thursday 3 March 2022, by siawi3


Ukraine: Asked to Leave Kharkiv Urgently, Indian Students Say Not Allowed to Board Trains

Neary 1,000 students are stranded in Kharkiv, according to reports.

People who have fled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine wait at the Shehyni border crossing to enter Poland, near Mostyska, Ukraine March 1, 2022. Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter

The Wire Staff

2 .03.22 5 hours ago

New Delhi: A day after an Indian student died in a Russian attack in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, the Indian embassy in Ukraine issued an urgent advisory – the first one to be issued in all capital letters – saying that all Indians in Kharkiv must leave before 6 pm local time today. The advisory was published on Twitter at 1:28 pm local time.

However, Indian students said that they are not being allowed into trains. Pragun, a student, told NDTV that the Ukrainians are not letting Indians enter, adding, “They are firing… kicking us.”

“We had a train in front of us but they are not allowing us. One or two gates opened for Ukrainian people. Just for them. And for us there are guns, bullets but no trains,” he said.

Pooja Praharaj, a postgraduate student in Kharkiv who has been acting as a student coordinator for around 1,200 students during this crisis, told The Wire after the advisory was issued, “We are trying to leave ASAP. If we won’t be able to board a train we will leave by car.”

Meanwhile, the new Russian envoy to India has spoken of Moscow working on a “humanitarian corridor” for evacuation through Russia and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has thanked the Polish president for easing visa demands.

The MEA spokesperson said the advisory was issued on the “basis of information from Russia”. He added that they should take any method to leave, including “on foot”.

Several Indian students are apparently stuck near the Pivdennyi Vokzal Railway station, according to a tweet from the mother of a student. They are walking towards Pesochin, the woman said.

According to Scroll, Abdul Zaheer, an agent who was helping students get admission in Ukraine, said buses or trains were not available for students to leave the city. “We tried to find all the options,” he said. “Students have to walk outside the city.”

Congested Shehyni

Earlier, the Indian embassies in Poland and Lithuania had issued urgent advisories asking Indian nationals in the cities of Lviv and Tempoli to go towards the Budomierz border point between Ukraine and Poland.

The Indian embassy in Warsaw has suggested they alternatively move towards border points with Hungary and Romania.

The embassy had called on Indians to avoid the Shehyni-Medyka border point due to its congestion – reports of Indians stranded there without food and in the snow had occupied headlines in the past few days.

Later in the day the Warsaw embassy also announced a phone call between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Polish president Andrzej Duda over relaxation of visa requirements.

Meanwhile, the ninth flight carrying 218 Indian nationals who were stranded in the country has reached New Delhi from the Romanian capital Bucharest.

Earlier, another flight from Bucharest with 182 Indian nationals had reached Mumbai.

External affairs minister S. Jaishankar tweeted that six flights have left for India in the last day from countries surrounding Ukraine as part of India’s evacuation efforts, titled ‘Operation Ganga’.

More than 1,337 Indians have been transported back, wrote Jaishankar.

India is at present evacuating nationals by moving them via land routes to Romania, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, and then flying them out from there.

Russia has begun bombing parts of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, from where the Indian embassy had on Tuesday, March 1, advised nationals to urgently leave.

India had “strongly and emphatically” asked Ukraine and Russia to create “urgent safe passages” for the Indian nationals stuck in various conflict zones in Ukraine, after the medical student from Karnataka was killed.

New Russian envoy to India Denis Alipov has said that Moscow is working on making a “humanitarian corridor” for safe passage of Indians through the Russian-Ukrainian border.

This is Alipov’s first address as ambassador-designate and he has not yet presented his credentials to the President, as is the norm.

As all Indian nationals have left the Ukrainian capital, the Indian embassy is now setting up an office in Lviv, Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Tuesday.

Russian columns wait as bombings continue

Russia bombed a TV tower in Kyiv and rained rockets on Kharkiv as Moscow intensified its bombardment of Ukrainian urban areas in a shift of tactics after its six-day invasion stalled.

A blast is seen in the TV tower, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Kiev, Ukraine March 1, 2022. Photo: Reuters/Carlos Barria

A US official said a miles-long armoured column bearing down on the capital Kyiv had not made any advances in the past 24 hours, frozen in place by logistics problems, short on fuel and food, and perhaps pausing to reassess tactics.

Russia’s defence ministry urged Kyiv residents to flee and said it would strike unspecified areas used by Ukraine’s security services and communications.

Speaking in a heavily guarded government compound in Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia must “first stop bombing people” before peace talks could make any headway.

In a joint interview with Reuters and CNN, Zelenskiy also urged NATO members to impose a no-fly zone to stop Russia’s airforce, something the military alliance has ruled out.

As Zelenskiy, unshaven and wearing simple khaki clothes, spoke, news came that a Russian missile had struck a TV tower near the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial site in Kyiv, killing at least five people.

Zelenskiy, who also spoke by phone for 30 minutes with US President Joe Biden on Tuesday, said the artillery barrages on the eastern city of Kharkiv amounted to “state terrorism”.

(With agency inputs)

Note: This report is being updated as and when relevant news comes in.



Stranded Indian students ‘watched as Ukrainian pets crossed border to safety’

African, Asian and Caribbean people said they had seen refugees being assaulted and others left needing emergency treatment for hypothermia

Adam Bychawski

2 March 2022, 5.03pm

Photo: Not all refugees are equal
| Aleksander Kalka/ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Live News. All rights reserved

Indian students in Ukraine who spent days stranded at the Polish border have told of “19th-century racism” as they watched Ukrainians’ pets allowed to cross before they were.

“It all comes down to black and white,” said medical student Muhammad, speaking from a hostel in Lviv on Tuesday. “They are Europeans and we are just Indians.”

Muhammad, originally from New Delhi, said he and hundreds of other foreign students had been denied access to the Polish border and forced to return to the city, 40 miles away, a few days earlier.

“What we suffered in the last three days was the worst thing that I’ve ever experienced,” said his classmate Jayesh.

“We were scared for our lives,” added Muhammad.

The two medical students were forced to spend three nights in freezing temperatures at a checkpoint close to the Polish border. Temperatures dropped as low as -6°C and there was no food, water or shelter from the snow.

“We collected wood from the nearby forest and started a fire just to survive. Some students started to get hypothermia and had to be taken to hospital,” Muhammad told openDemocracy.

In the past week, African, Asian and Caribbean people, many of whom are students, have shared reports and footage of themselves being prevented from leaving the country. Some told openDemocracy they had witnessed students being assaulted and others left needing emergency treatment for hypothermia after being barred for days from crossing borders.

Muhammad, 23, and Jayesh, 21, are two of the 18,000 Indian students who were stranded in Ukraine when Russian troops invaded last week. When their flights were cancelled, they tried to make their way out through a land border.

On Friday, they took a taxi from Lviv with a group of students from the city’s National Medical University to the village of Shehyni, where there is a border crossing to Poland. They were stopped at a checkpoint by Ukrainian guards about four miles from the border.

At the checkpoint, Muhammed found there were hundreds of foreign students stuck there, some also from India, as well as others from Pakistan, Nepal and several African countries. They were separated from Ukrainians, who, Muhammed said, were the only people being let through.

“The Ukrainians were going through with their dogs and cats. Even they were treated better than the Indian students,” he said.

The pair said checkpoint guards became violent when attempting to control the crowd, pushing people back and pointing guns at students. “When one woman fell to the ground, a guard dragged her by hair,” said Jayesh, who is from Mumbai.

A video they recorded of the incident, which was later shared by Indian MP Rahul Ghani on Twitter, shows people in high-vis who Muhammad identified as border guards firing warning shots into the air and dragging people away from the entrance of a fenced-off checkpoint (see above).

Muhammad and Jayesh, who spent the last three years studying for a medical degree, said they were shocked by what they had experienced at the border. “We’ve never felt anything like that. I thought the racism that we saw there, the treatment of Indian people, was like we were living in the 19th century,” said Muhammad.

On Wednesday, Muhammad said he had managed to cross the border to Romania and had been provided shelter and food by the government. Indian embassy officials told him that an airlift was being arranged for students in Romania.

According to the Ukrainian government, there are 76,548 international students from 155 nations enrolled at the country’s universities. The largest group, accounting for almost a quarter of the foreign student population, are Indian nationals. They are followed by Moroccans, Turkmenistanis, Azerbaijanis and Nigerians.

In the past week, hundreds of Nigerian students have crossed over the border to Poland but many more remain stranded in Ukraine.

Related story:
Racist war reporting undermines trust in media
2 March 2022 | Marcus Ryder
Racist language in the coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will have viewers switching off, writes veteran former BBC journalist Marcus Ryder

Tade Daniel Omotosho, who is chair of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Poland, said he had received hundreds of calls from desperate students needing support. Some said they had also experienced racial discrimination while trying to make their way out of the country.

“I heard people tell me that they were asked to get off trains, of people complaining of being sick and not being attended to, of people saying that they delayed me for no reason. I’ve heard people saying that ‘they kept me in a confined room,’” said Omotosho.

In the last week, several videos have circulated on social media appearing to show Africans being denied entry onto trains or through borders, prompting condemnation from the Nigerian government.

On Monday, Nigeria’s special adviser to the president on diaspora affairs, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said: “Africans are being denied entry through the Ukrainian borders. The minister of foreign affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, has taken this up with the Ukrainian ambassador. Our people who want to leave must be allowed to.”

Omotosho said that he understood that Ukrainian officials had been prioritising women and children at train stations, but had heard reports from students that Nigerian women had been segregated from Ukrainian women too.

“That spells it out clearly that there is some discrimination. So it’s not just about letting women and children go first – it seems obvious that there is some form of segregation and it shouldn’t be tolerated,” he said.

“That shouldn’t happen because we’ve all got solidarity for Ukraine now.”

On Monday, a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine dismissed reports of discrimination towards foreign students as “Russian disinformation”.

“There is no discrimination based on the race or nationality, including when it comes to the crossing of the state border by foreign citizens,” it said.

But the United Nations said at a press conference on Tuesday it was aware that some non-European refugees had faced discrimination.

Filippo Grandi, the organisation’s high commissioner for refugees, said: “You have seen reports in the media that there are different treatments – with Ukrainians and non-Ukrainians. Now our observations, and we possibly cannot observe every single post yet – but our observations [are] that these are not state policies – but there are instances [in] which it has happened.

“There has been a different treatment […]. There should be absolutely no discrimination between Ukrainians and non-Ukrainians, Europeans and non-Europeans. Everyone is fleeing from the same risks,” he added.