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Air India flight lands in Delhi from Ukraine, students who returned say ‘tension building up’

Ticket prices soar, more flights scheduled in coming days as tensions with Russia escalate

Written by Abhinaya Harigovind | New Delhi |
Updated: February 24, 2022 2:18:37 am
On board were mostly students returning after the Indian embassy in Ukraine issued advisories asking them to leave the country temporarily. Gajendra Yadav

An Air India special flight, AI1946, from Kyiv in Ukraine landed in Delhi around 11.30 pm on Tuesday.

Those on board were mostly students who were returning after the Indian embassy in Ukraine issued advisories asking them to leave Ukraine temporarily.

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On Tuesday night, families crowded around the arrival gates well in advance, waiting for returning students.

On board were mostly students returning after the Indian embassy in Ukraine issued advisories asking them to leave the country temporarily. Gajendra Yadav

Dhruv Malhotra, a fifth-year student of medicine in the city of Kharkiv in Ukraine, was among those who returned. “Right now, it’s peaceful and the situation is under control in Kharkiv and Kyiv. But the tension seems to be building up, and we were advised to leave,” he said.

Malhotra, who is from Vrindavan, said that his friends are also headed back soon, some on the Air India flights scheduled for the next few days, and others who have booked on other airlines. In addition to the one that landed on Tuesday, Air India is operating two special flights between Kyiv and Delhi on February 24 and 26.

Mohammad Alfaiz, a second-year student of medicine from Delhi, said that there seemed to be a lot of tension among the Ukrainians. “The situation is normal so far, but students are worried,” he said.

“Classes will now be held online. It will have an impact on our studies, since practicals will be affected, and we’ll be able to get back only once the situation returns to normal,” said Mohammad Zeeshan, also a second-year MBBS student from Mumbai. “Our friends will be returning soon as well. People are returning as and when they are able to book flights. The flight tickets we have been seeing are very expensive.”

A Ukrainian soldier in Krymske, which was shelled by separatists. (NYT)

Harwinder Saroha, a resident of Sonipat, whose daughter Nikita was returning from the Ternopil National Medical University, also pointed out that the flight tickets were very expensive. “The tickets cost around Rs 66,000 now, when it is usually around Rs 26,000. We managed to get the ticket, but it might be difficult for others. There were no major problems where she was staying, but we decided that she would come back to be on the safe side. She lives over 400 km away from Kyiv, but didn’t have any problem commuting to Kyiv to take the flight,” Saroha said.

Rajesh Rana, a resident of Patiala, whose daughter Harshita, a 5th year student of medicine, was returning on Tuesday, also said that there were not too many flights for the return. “It was very expensive. It’s good that these flights were made available, but there need to be more,” said Rana.

Students also returned by other flights on Tuesday. Divyam, who is from Botad in Gujarat, and Neerav Patel, also from Gujarat, returned to Delhi by a Turkish Airlines flight. “We’re not sure what the situation at the border was like. The embassy issued advisories to leave, and students began to leave. Classes will now be online,” said Divyam, a first-year student in Chernivtsi.

In an advisory issued on February 20, the Indian embassy in Kyiv had asked all Indian nationals “whose stay is not deemed essential and all Indian students” to leave Ukraine temporarily, in view of “the continued high levels of tensions and uncertainties with respect to the situation in Ukraine”.

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In another advisory issued on Tuesday, the embassy again asked Indian students to leave Ukraine temporarily, rather than wait for an official confirmation from universities about online classes.

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