A DAY after the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) sent teams to Ukraine’s western borders, the Centre on Friday focussed its efforts on evacuating Indian nationals via flights from Romania and Hungary.
With Ukraine closing its airspace, the government is making arrangements to send Air India flights on Saturday, from Delhi and Mumbai, to Bucharest in Romania and Budapest in Hungary. Sources said operation of these flights is subject to approvals from authorities in Romania and Hungary.
India is seeking to evacuate its nationals through Ukraine’s land borders with Hungary, Poland, Slovak Republic and Romania, from where they will be flown home. “The first batch of evacuees from Ukraine reach Romania via Suceava border crossing. Our team at Suceava will now facilitate travel to Bucharest for their onward journey to India,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted on Friday night.
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According to a government official, the flight from Delhi to Bucharest is scheduled to leave at 7.30 am IST on Saturday, while the return flight will leave Bucharest at 11.30 am (local time). The flight from Delhi to Budapest is scheduled to leave at 9 am IST on Saturday, while the return flight will leave Budapest at 1.15 pm (local time). The official said the flights will be operated under the Vande Bharat Mission, on the 256-seater Boeing 787 aircraft.
The details on the Mumbai flights were not available.
In a statement, Air India said: “Air India will be operating flights on B787 aircraft from Delhi & Mumbai to Bucharest (Romania) and Budapest (Hungary) on 26th Feb as special Govt Charter flights to fly back stranded Indian citizens”.
The MEA said on Thursday that its teams had been sent to the Zahony border post in Hungary, Krakowiec land border in Poland, Vysne Nemecke in Slovak Republic, and Suceava land border in Romania.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has spoken to his counterparts in Ukraine, Russia and all these four neighbouring countries.
The ministry has also set up camp offices in Lviv and Chernivtsi towns in western Ukraine to facilitate transit of Indians to Hungary, Romania and Poland, sources said. According to sources, the camp office in Lviv would be able to coordinate the evacuation to Poland and Hungary, while the one at Chernivtsi would facilitate exit to Romania.
Sources said additional Russian-speaking officials are being sent to these camp offices to coordinate the transit of Indians. “Officials there are assisting Indian citizens who reach these cities, and will facilitate their departure from Ukraine through adjoining border crossings,” said a source.
“The Government of India is organising evacuation flights for Indians in Ukraine. The cost will be completely borne by the government for this evacuation,” said a source.
In an advisory, the Indian Embassy in Ukraine said teams were being deputed at the Chop-Zahony checkpost on the Hungarian border as well as at Porubne-Stret on the Romanian border around Chernivtsi in Uzhhorod. “In this difficult situation, the Embassy of India requests Indians to continue to remain strong, safe and alert. The Embassy is also working round the clock to support the Indian community in Ukraine,” it said. “The Government of India and the Embassy are working to establish evacuation routes from Romania and Hungary,” it said.
Air India was earlier scheduled to fly to Kyiv on Saturday, but the flight was cancelled following closure of airspace. The evacuation flight to Kyiv on Thursday was turned back mid-air after Ukraine announced closure of airspace.
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla had said on Thursday that there were around 20,000 Indians in Ukraine, of which about 4,000 had returned to India in the last few days.
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