Naveen Patnaik speaks to Jaishankar, Shah over Odisha students stuck in Ukraine
Bhubaneswar, Feb 25: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday spoke to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Home Minister Amit Shah, urging them to ensure the safe return of hundreds of students and workers of the state stranded in war-torn Ukraine.
While the state is working to ascertain the exact number of people stranded in the restive country, official sources said it is around 1,500. Jaishankar and Shah have assured Patnaik the safe evacuation of those stranded in Ukraine, an official statement issued by the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) said.
Patnaik directed Special Relief Commissioner PK Jena to coordinate the return of the Odisha residents from Ukraine, while district magistrates were asked to collect information from the families of those stranded. The chief minister said the state government will bear the expenses of the evacuation.
The state government also operationalised a Special Assistance Cell at Odisha Bhavan in New Delhi to coordinate the rescue efforts with the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Civil Aviation and other agencies concerned.
"All processes to ensure the safe evacuation of students from Ukraine is underway. Since the airports in Ukraine are closed, the MEA has been taking the people of Indian origin, including those from Odisha, to some bordering countries from where they can take flights back to India. We are in constant touch with the MEA team working in the field level," said Ravi Kant, Odisha's Resident Commissioner in New Delhi.
Most of the students from the state are pursuing medical courses at National Medical University in Kharkiv and Kyiv Medical University. The stranded students are from Balasore, Bhadrak, Kendrapara, Rayagada, Nabarangpur, Khurda, Cuttack, Angul, Dhenkanal, Ganjam, Sundargarh and Sambalpur districts, official sources said.
"The Odisha government has already moved for the safe evacuation of the students. Our resident commissioner in New Delhi is in regular touch with the Ministry of External Affairs," Chief Secretary SC Mohapatra told PTI.
Roshan Behera, a fourth-year medical student from Kuchinda in Sambalpur district, told an Odia TV channel from Ukraine that the bomb shelters are already full, crammed with locals.
"We are living in constant fear for life as we have never faced such a situation before. We need to be rescued immediately. Our parents and relatives are constantly calling us to know about the situation here. We don't know for how long they can keep contacting us," she said.
Aruna Jyoti Biswal, a resident of Mahanadi Vihar in Cuttack whose son is a final-year medical student in Ukraine, said, "My son Aruaman Abhishek was supposed to return home on February 26, but is unable to do so as flights are cancelled. I appeal to both the prime minister and the chief minister to rescue my son."