Despite MEA advisories, Indian students stay put in war-torn Ukraine

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Nearly two months after Indian students started returning to war-torn Ukraine to resume their classes, a fresh escalation of the conflict with Russia — which led to India issuing two consecutive advisories asking its citizens to leave the country immediately — has added to the uncertainty among students.

Despite the fresh tension, the youngsters, mostly students of medicine, have for now decided to stay put in Ukraine, with many of them saying they have no option but to do so. Others say they are waiting and watching before they decide what to do next. Some of the students are temporarily relocating to neighbouring Hungary and Slovakia, which have been issuing 30-day permits at the border, while for the others, the daily sirens and the underground bunkers are gradually becoming a part of their everyday routine.

A fifth-year student of Lviv National Medical University said he has temporarily moved in with his friends in Hungary, from where he has been attending online classes. “There’s hardly any student who is thinking of returning to India now. After all that we have gone through in the past seven months, we just want to complete our degrees in Ukraine. We came back only a month ago after convincing our parents and spending at least a lakh; we can’t go back now,” he said.

On Tuesday, India issued its second advisory in a week asking its citizens to “leave Ukraine by all available means”. In the previous advisory, issued on October 19, New Delhi had warned its citizens against travelling to Ukraine and asked students who returned to the country to leave in view of the “deteriorating security situation”.

It was around seven months ago, in March, that the Russia-Ukraine war forced nearly 20,000 Indian students studying medicine in Ukraine to return home. Since September, an estimated 1,000 students who fled the war have returned to Ukraine to resume their education.

The latest set of advisories come amid stepped-up hostilities – the air strikes and missile attacks are now targeting the relatively safer western Ukraine cities of Lviv and Ternopil – and Russia’s claim that it suspected Ukraine of planning to use a so-called “dirty bomb“ laced with nuclear material. With Western countries rejecting Russia’s allegation as a pretext for intensifying the eight-month-long war, many fear the worst is probably not over yet.