Meanwhile, an Indian Air Force (IAF) C-17 transport aircraft left for Romania in the early hours of Wednesday morning to help evacuate Indian nationals stranded in Ukraine.
Indians are travelling by road to Ukraine’s borders with Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland from where they are being taken by the Indian government officials to airports for the evacuation flights. Four Union ministers — Hardeep Singh Puri, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kiren Rijiju and Gen (retd) VK Singh — on Tuesday left for these countries to oversee the evacuation efforts.
Here are latest developments about Russia-Ukraine conflict:
India abstains on UNGA resolution condemning Russia
India on Wednesday supported the international community’s call for an immediate ceasefire after abstaining on a UN General Assembly resolution that strongly deplored Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the third abstention in less than a week by the country in the world body on resolutions on the escalating crisis between Moscow and Kyiv.
The 193-member General Assembly Wednesday voted to reaffirm its commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and “deplores in the strongest terms” Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
The resolution was adopted with 141 votes in favour, five Member States voting against and 35 abstentions. The General Assembly broke into an applause as the resolution was adopted.
The resolution required a 2/3 majority to be adopted in the General Assembly.
The resolution also condemned Russia’s decision to increase the readiness of its nuclear forces and deplores the involvement of Belarus in this “unlawful use” of force against Ukraine, and calls upon it to abide by its international obligations.
Modi, Putin discuss evacuation of Indians from Ukraine
As fighting escalated in Ukraine, especially its second-largest city Kharkiv, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin reviewed the situation in the war ravaged nation which India has asked its nationals to leave “immediately”, an official statement said on Wednesday night.
The two leaders discussed the safe evacuation of Indian nationals from the conflict areas.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on phone today with Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation. The leaders reviewed the situation in Ukraine, especially in the city of Kharkiv where many Indian students are stuck,” the statement said.
“They discussed the safe evacuation of the Indian nationals from the conflict areas,” it added.
Earlier in the day, India asked its nationals to leave Kharkiv urgently to three nearby places “even on foot”, while Russia promised to create “humanitarian corridors” for evacuation of Indians from the conflict zones.
PM chairs high-level meeting on Ukraine crisis
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting on Wednesday night on the Ukraine crisis as India stepped up its efforts to evacuate its citizens, mostly students, from the country under attack from Russia.
External affairs minister S Jaishankar and his Cabinet colleague Piyush Goyal besides senior officials attended the meeting.
Modi has held a series of meetings since Sunday to spearhead India’s efforts to safely bring back its nationals, asserting that this is his government’s top priority.
Earlier in the day, the Indian embassy in Ukraine asked all Indian nationals to leave Kharkiv immediately to safe zones or further westwards.
The external affairs ministry has assured that every Indian citizen will be brought back from Ukraine
Leave Kharkiv immediately: Indian embassy in Ukraine to Indians
In urgent advisories, the Indian embassy in Ukraine on Wednesday asked all Indians stranded in Kharkiv to leave the conflict zone immediately. The embassy asked Indians to proceed to settlements in Pisochyn, Babai and Bezlyudivka as soon as possible.
“For their safety and security, they must leave Kharkiv immediately repeat immediately in the light of the detriorating situation. They should proceed to Pisochyn, Babai and Bezlyudivka as soon as possible for their safety,” the embassy said.
“Under all circumstances, they must reach these settlements by 1800 hours (Ukrainian time) today (9:30 pm IST),” it said.
In a second advisory issued around 2:30 pm (Ukrainian time), the Indian embassy said, “Those students who cannot find vehicles or buses and are in railway station can proceed on foot to Pisochyn (11 km), Babai (12 km) and Bezlyudivka (16 km).”
The advisories came amid raging fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces in Kharkiv.
‘A 3rd World War would be nuclear and destructive’
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that if a third World War were to take place, it would involve nuclear weapons and be destructive, the RIA news agency reported.
Lavrov has said that Russia, which launched what it calls a special military operation against Ukraine last week, would face a “real danger” if Kyiv acquired nuclear weapons.
Working on creating safe passage for Indians, Russian diplomat says
Russia on Wednesday said it is working ‘intensely’ to create a ‘humanitarian corridor’ for safe passage to Russian territory of Indians stuck in Kharkiv, Sumy and other conflict zones in Ukraine.
Russian ambassador-designate Denis Alipov said Russia is in touch with India on the issue of safety of Indians and that the safe passage will be put into place “as soon as possible.
The diplomat said that Russia is in touch with India on the safety of Indians in Kharkiv, Sumy and other conflict zones in Ukraine.
“India’s unbiased position based on assessment of Ukraine situation is not because it is dependent on Russian arms,” the Russian envoy added.
31 evacuation flights to bring back over 6k Indians
As many as 31 evacuation flights will be operated to neighbouring countries of crisis-hit Ukraine and will bring back more than 6,300 Indians stranded in the eastern European nation, according to official sources.
Under ‘Operation Ganga’, the flights will be operated by Air India, Air India Express, IndiGo, SpiceJet and Indian Air Force.
Indian Air Force will be bringing back Indians from Bucharest.
The sources on Wednesday said Air India Express and SpiceJet planes have a capacity for around 180 people while Air India and IndiGo can carry up to 250 and 216 passengers, respectively.
Russian military says has control of Ukraine’s Kherson
The Russian army claimed on Wednesday it had taken control of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson as Moscow’s invasion of the pro-Western country went into its seventh day.
“The Russian divisions of the armed forces have taken the regional centre of Kherson under full control,” defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in televised remarks.
Indian flag came to rescue of fleeing Pak, Turkish students
The Indian students who arrived in the city of Bucharest in Romania from Ukraine said that the national tricolour helped them as well as some Pakistani and Turkish students in safely crossing the various checkpoints in the war-torn country.
The Indian students arrived in the Romanian city to catch the special evacuation flights being operated under ‘Operation Ganga’ from the neighbouring countries of Ukraine. Air India, SpiceJet and Indigo are flying special evacuation flights.
‘Russian airborne troops land in Kharkiv’
Russian airborne troops landed in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Wednesday, the Ukrainian army said, adding that there were immediate clashes.
“Russian airborne troops landed in Kharkiv… and attacked a local hospital,” the army said in a statement on messaging app Telegram. “There is an ongoing fight between the invaders and the Ukrainians.”
Kharkiv, a largely Russian-speaking city near the Russian border, has a population of around 1.4 million.
Another flight with Indians returns from Ukraine
Union minister Dr Jitendra Singh on Wednesday morning received another batch of Indians at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi upon their return from conflict-torn Ukraine.
After Russian forces launched military operations in Ukraine on February 24, the government launched ‘Operation Ganga’ to bring back stranded Indian nationals from Ukraine. As part of the ‘Operation Ganga’ mission, special flights are being operated free of cost.
Posting an update on the evacution mission, external affairs minister S Jaishankar tweeted, “Six flights have now departed for India in the last 24 hours. Includes the first flights from Poland.”
#OperationGanga developments. Six flights have now departed for India in the last 24 hours. Includes the first fl… https://t.co/G0rWCewqas
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) 1646185647000
Biden: Putin now ‘isolated from the world’
The world has “isolated” Vladimir Putin for sending Russian forces pouring into Ukraine, US President Joe Biden said Tuesday, vowing that devastating sanctions would “sap” Russia’s economic strength and weaken its military.
“Putin is now isolated from the world more than he has ever been,” Biden told members of Congress in his first State of the Union address, adding “he has no idea what’s coming” in terms of economic penalties and punishment.
The American president also took aim at Russian oligarchs and “corrupt leaders” who he said have bilked billions of dollars off Putin’s regime, warning them “We’re coming for your ill-begotten gains.
Indian student dies in Russian shelling
After a 21-year-old Indian medical student, Naveen Shekharappa, was killed in shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city that has taken the brunt of Russia’s invasion, India again called in Russian ambassador Denis Alipov and his Ukraine counterpart, Igor Polikha, to “emphatically’’ demand a safe passage for Indian nationals stranded in eastern Ukraine. While an Indian embassy office has been set up in Lviv, near the border with Poland, to help evacuate Indian students, there was no confirmation or denial that the entire embassy staff had left for Lviv.
What is happening in Ukraine’s major cities?
Russian shelling struck central Kharkiv’s Freedom Square just after sunrise Tuesday, badly damaging a regional administration building and other structures, and killing at least six people and wounding dozens of others, Ukrainian officials said.
It was the first time the Russian military hit the center of the city of 1.5 million people, though shells have been hitting residential neighborhoods for days.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blamed a Russian missile and called the attack a war crime: “It’s frank, undisguised terror. … Nobody will forgive. Nobody will forget.”
Hours later, Russian shelling struck Kyiv’s main TV tower and Holocaust memorial, killing five people and injuring five others, according to Ukrainian officials. The blast knocked TV broadcasts off the air for a short time.
Where is that massive Russian convoy?
The Russian military convoy threatening Kyiv and its nearly 3 million residents is far bigger than initially thought, with satellite images showing it occupying much of a 40-mile (64-kilometer) stretch of road north of the capital.
The convoy was no more than 17 miles (25 kilometers) from the city center on Monday, according to satellite imagery from the Maxar company.
What is the battle like on Ukraine’s southern front?
Russian strikes on Mariupol, a key southern port on the Azov Sea, seriously wounded several people. Separatist forces in Donetsk said they have established two corridors for the evacuation of civilians from Mariupol, which suggests that a large attack on the city could be imminent.
Russian forces have blocked the port city of Kherson, according to Ukrainian officials. And they struck a military base in Okhtyrka over the weekend, killing more than 70 Ukrainian soldiers, the head of the region wrote on Telegram.
The overall death toll from the fighting remains unclear, but the attacks have taken a toll.
UN humanitarian coordinator Martin Griffiths said Tuesday that shelling and bombing have damaged pipes, electricity lines and basic services in Ukraine, and that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian families are without drinking water.
Apple, Ford other big American brands join corporate wave shunning Russia
Some of America’s best-known companies including Apple, Google, Ford and Harley-Davidson rebuked and rejected Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, under steady pressure from investors and consumers decrying the violence.
Apple Inc late on Tuesday said it had stopped sales of iPhones and other products in Russia, adding that it was making changes to its Maps app to protect civilians in Ukraine.
Alphabet Inc’s Google dropped Russian state publishers from its news, and Ford Motor, with three joint venture factories in Russia, told its Russian manufacturing partner it was suspending operations in the country. Motor cycle maker Harley-Davidson Inc suspended shipments of its bikes.
The steady drum beat of companies taking a stance increased later in the day as rockets struck major cities in Ukraine.
“Ford is deeply concerned about the invasion of Ukraine and the resultant threats to peace and stability. The situation has compelled us to reassess our operations in Russia,” Ford said, adding to several days of announcements by global car companies.
(With inputs from agencies)