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PTI

The last big group of about 700 Indian students evacuated from the northeastern Ukrainian city of Sumy has boarded a special train from Poltava and are likely to board a flight to India from Poland on Thursday.

The train will take the students to Lviv in western Ukraine, from where they will be taken to Poland in buses, Anshad Ali, a student coordinator, informed.

The distance between Poltava and Lviv is around 888 km.

Covering hundreds of miles across Ukraine, using multiple means of transport, the students are being evacuated from the war-hit east European country after their two weeks of excruciating stay in beleaguered Sumy.

The Indian government is carrying out a most delicate and challenging evacuation exercise under Operation Ganga to help stranded Indians leave Ukraine.

The operation in Sumy began on Tuesday morning when the last big group of around 700 Indians was evacuated from the city.

The Indian nationals were taken from Sumy in a convoy of 13 buses escorted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to Poltava city, Ali said.

The students are enduring a strenuous journey to escape the war-hit region. This is the second attempt to evacuate students from Sumy, which has been witnessing heavy shelling and intense fire ever since a Russian offensive on Ukraine began last month.

Jisna Jiji, a 25-year-old medical student who spoke to PTI from the train, said she and other students are relieved to have come out of Sumy.

"We are tired but happy. We are travelling since Tuesday morning and have to travel for several more hours but now, we have hope that we will reach home safely," she said.

Ali, who spoke to PTI from Poltava, said it is a nearly-12-hour train journey to Lviv, from where the students will be taken to Poland via buses.

Lviv is located about 50 km from the Poland border.

After crossing the frontier, the students will be flown out on evacuation flights from Poland.

"The students left Sumy at around 9:30 am. First they reached Poltava, which is 170 km away and then they boarded a train to Lviv," Ali said.

"From Lviv, they will be taken to Poland in buses and then they are expected to board a flight for India on Thursday," he added.

Ali informed that nearly 700 Indians were moved out of the city. The group also included a handful of Bangladeshi and Nepalese nationals, he noted.

"After the Indian students, the students of other countries were also evacuated. Around 95 per cent of the students have been evacuated from Sumy," he informed.

For two weeks, the Indian students in Sumy waged a doughty battle in bomb shelters and basements of their hostels in frigid weather, low on food, drinking water and other essential supplies, as Russian forces clobbered the city with rockets and heavy gunfire.

The first attempt to evacuate them was made on March 7 after the distressed students put out a video, saying they have decided to take a journey on foot to reach the Russian border. The attempt failed as the ceasefire did not take hold and the students were made to return to their hostels.

The Indian embassy in Ukraine has issued an advisory, urging all stranded Indian nationals to make use of the "humanitarian corridor" and leave the country using trains, vehicles or any other available means of transport, keeping in mind their safety.

Considering the security situation, the establishment of the next humanitarian corridor is uncertain, the advisory said.

"All stranded Indian nationals are urged to make use of this opportunity and evacuate using trains or vehicles or any other available means of transport, giving due consideration to safety," it said.
 

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