An anti-government protester runs trough the rubble after violence erupted in Ukraine protests
An anti-government protester runs trough the rubble after violence erupted in Ukraine protestsReuters

The Indian Embassy has started emergency evacuation of Indian nationals, most of who are students, from the conflict-ridden eastern region of Lugansk to Keiv.

With the crisis in Ukraine is expected to escalate, the embassy in a circular stated: "In view of the security situation in Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine marked by frequent violent clashes, Indian citizens, particularly students, are strongly advised to leave these regions as soon as possible."

 It also went on to warn Indian citizens in the other parts of eastern and southern Ukraine to "remain vigilant about their personal safety and security."

In the meantime, the Indian Embassy has arranged 500 train tickets for Indian students out of Ukraine on Tuesday. However, as per the Indian Embassy only 27 students have arrived out of Lugansk and have been lodged at Hotel Ramada Encore in Kiev.

The Indian Mission in Ukraine also arranged for another 500 tickets for the remaining Indian students and nationals to travel out of Lugansk on 4 June as well.

The embassy circular further emphasised that those Indian nationals and students who have booked railway tickets for later dates should compulsarily travel out of the Lugansk either on June 3 or 4 "and not delay their departure from Lugansk to a later date as the situation may deteriorate further".

Violent clashes have intensified the civil unrest in eastern Ukrainian regions, where the pro-Russian rebels are demanding independence from Kiev and closer ties with Moscow.

Even as the crisis is escalating, several students are in a quandry as many of them have their final exams. "Our exams are going on. But the embassy has asked us to leave the country as soon as possibles," K Vasanthakumar, a medical student from Tamil Nadu, told TOI over phone from Lugansk. He said there was a bomb blast near their hostel a few days ago.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs, there are over 3,000 Indian students studying medicine and engineering in universities in Ukraine. Among the Indian students in Lugansk, there are over 300 from Kerala and Tamil Nadu, 150 from Andhra Pradesh, 60 from Punjab, 25 each from Jammu and Kashmir and Maharashtra, 20 from Uttar Pradesh and 10 from Gujarat. There are another 200 students from other states and a small Indian business community in Kiev.

On the whole crisis, the Indian government has chosen to take quite a balanced stance. In its official statement, the Indian government had stated that it would observe the situation in Ukraine and will respect the decisions of both sides as long as they are peaceful. Following the annexation in Crimea, India was the first of the UN members states, who supported the breaking away of Crimea on grounds that it was the people of Crimea's choice.