The death of a 21-year-old Indian medical student who was killed in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Tuesday, one of the first foreign nationals to die in the conflict, has thrown a spotlight on the tens of thousands of Indian students who remain trapped in the country since Russia’s invasion began.
According to the Indian foreign ministry, there were initially 20,000 Indian citizens in Ukraine, mostly students. So far around 12,000 have been successfully rescued but another 8,000 remain in heavy conflict areas or are still making their way to the borders.
Ukraine is a popular destination for Indian students, who flock to Ukrainian universities for the less competitive admission and low cost to study subjects such as medicine and engineering.
The student who died was identified as Naveen Shekharappa Gyanagoudar, 21, from the southern Indian state of Karnataka. He was a fourth year medical student at Kharkiv National Medical University.
According to classmates who were with him, Gyanagoudar died when there was an air strike and shelling as he was lining up for food outside of a shop in the city.
A friend told the Indian Express:
Naveen was shot dead around 10.30 am Ukrainian time today. He was standing in the queue before a grocery shop when the Russian army fired at people. We have no information about his body.
Many other Indian students remain in bunkers in Kharkiv, said his friend.
His death was confirmed by a spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External affairs who tweeted:
With profound sorrow we confirm that an Indian student lost his life in shelling in Kharkiv this morning.
In a background briefing, the Indian government said India had repeatedly taken up the issue of safe passage of Indian nationals with both Russia and Ukraine, and an Indian evacuation team was positioned in the Russian city of Belgorod, close to the Ukrainian border.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi said that in his call with Putin a few days ago, he had raised the issue of the safety of Indian students.