Indian students return to Ukraine despite war escalating

Some of the Indian students who were evacuated with the assistance of Indian authorities from Ukraine and neighbouring countries after the Russian attack in February have returned to Ukraine.

Others are planning to return even though the war has escalated, and India’s Ministry of External Affairs has issued an advisory asking students to leave Ukraine.

Many students feel compelled to return, despite the increasing risks, for the sake of their future as they have been unable to continue their studies in India. In particular students in their clinical years of medical studies are returning to areas of Ukraine where universities are functioning almost normally such as in Western Ukraine, where infrastructure has until now been relatively unaffected.

Some 20,000 Indian students, most of them studying medicine, were brought home earlier this year, many of them after fleeing across the border in harrowing circumstances to escape dire conditions in besieged cities in the east of the country.

After returning to India, students who were studying medicine in different cities of Ukraine called on Indian and state authorities to allow them to be accommodated in Indian medical colleges to continue their clinical training and medical education.

However, the Indian government refused to accede to their demands and most students are managing with online classes from their respective universities in Ukraine, while some have transferred to various universities in other countries.

The National Medical Commission (NMC), the Indian regulatory body which oversees medical education and professionals, has accepted online classes only for theory but not for practicals or clinical training for students in countries such as Ukraine and China.

Anurag Krishn, a fourth-year student at the National Pirogov Memorial Medical University, Vinnytsia, in West Central Ukraine, said he had no plans to return to India in the near future. “We [students] have decided to wait for some time. If conditions deteriorate, then we may think of moving to a safer place.”

“But right now we are concentrating on our studies and plan to complete our degrees. The [Indian] government knows that in reality we have no option left,” he said.

Vinnytsia is now relatively calm despite coming under drone attack on 11 October which knocked out the power station. Drone and rocket attacks have been launched since 10 October against a number of previously safe cities in the West, including Lviv near the border with Poland.

Areas that did not come under bombardment have been affected by electricity and water outages as critical infrastructure has been hit. The situation in the East, particularly Donetsk and Luhansk, is extremely unsafe. The Indian embassy has advised students against returning to institutions in the two areas.

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