No immediate plans for evacuation of Indians, monitoring situation in Ukraine: India

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BREST, FEB 9 (UNI):- Combat crews of the S-400 air defence system are preparing to take up combat duty at the training ground in the Brest region bordering Belarus and Ukraine.

New Delhi, (UNI): The government has no immediate plans for evacuation of its citizens from Ukraine, nor has it arranged for any special flights to bring back Indians from there, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday.

The statement came even as the Civil Aviation Ministry removed restrictions on the number of flights to and from Ukraine under an air bubble arrangement amid the tense situation in that country.

MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, in a media briefing, said that Indian carriers are being encouraged to operate charter flights between India and Ukraine. He said the Indian Embassy in Kyiv was monitoring the situation on the ground continuously, and control rooms have been set up at the Embassy and in the MEA in New Delhi.

“This is a live issue.. The developments are being monitored by our embassy. They have issued a couple of advisories. We have set up control rooms, there is a control room at the embassy, there is a control room at the MEA, we also have a 24X7 helpline.. “I don’t think any decision regarding evacuation has been taken. Our embassy continues to function normally and provide services to Indian nationals in Ukraine,” he said, recalling the advisory issued two days ago that requested Indians who were in non-essential activities, especially students, to leave as well as not undertake non-essential travel in Ukraine.

“As I said flights are operational, our embassy is functioning, and is in touch with the students.. “And that’s how we are looking at it. We continue to monitor the situation on the ground, and we will take further steps if required,” he added. Asked about the reading of the situation on the ground in Ukraine, amidst the face-off between the West and Russia, he said: “Our embassy is functioning and monitoring… and they have some sense of what’s happening on the ground… We have seen some comments, and we do not have any particular readout on the nuances and technicalities, and we do not want to go into that.”

Asked how serious is the situation there, he said: “When we issue an advisory we take on board the developments that are happening, as well as our assessment of how we can assist our citizens who are there.

So I would say our focus is and remains on Indian citizens and Indian students, Indian nationals, rather than anything larger than that, and in terms of what we need to do to ensure that they are safe, and are provided information that we have.”

“We have no immediate evacuation plans, we do not have any special flights,” he added. He said that Indian carriers are being encouraged to operate charter flights between India and Ukraine.

“There are also flights through other routes, Almaty, Dubai, Sharjah, etc. Our embassy there has issued guidance to the students not to panic, and there are other FAQs that have been put out.

They are also taking phone calls. “So, I would say we are looking at a process; we are looking at how it develops, and who requires what kind of assistance,” the MEA spokesperson added.

Earlier, the Ministry of Civil Aviation announced that it has removed restrictions on the number of flights to and from Ukraine under an air bubble arrangement. “Any number of flights as well as charter flights can operate,” the Ministry said in a statement.

At present Ukrainian International Airlines, Air Arabia, Fly Dubai and Qatar Airways are operating flights from Ukraine. On Thursday, US President Joe Biden said the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine was “very high” despite Moscow’s claim of more troop pullbacks from the border.

Biden said an attack was possible in “next several days”. The Kremlin, however, has said that it has no plans to invade Ukraine. “There is no ‘Russian invasion’ of Ukraine, which the United States and its allies have been announcing officially since last fall, and it is not planned,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

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