03/01/2022, 15.14
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War in Ukraine: New Delhi evacuates 2,000 students, 14,000 still stranded

Indians were the largest contingent of foreign university students. Almost all of them were enrolled in medicine because of low fees compared to India’s private schools. At least one Indian student was killed in the bombing of Kharkiv. India’s evacuation plan involves flying students home after getting them across the border into a neighbouring East European country.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – More than 1,500 Indian students have been evacuated so far from Ukraine following Russia’s attack on 24 February. Before the war, some 20,000 Indians - mostly medical students, lived in the former Soviet republic.

Almost 500 students returned home in two Air India Express planes that landed in New Delhi yesterday, one from Budapest and the other from Bucharest.

Another 182 students arrived in Mumbai this morning via Kuwait on a plane that took off from the Romanian capital. Since last Saturday, the day of the first evacuation, India has carried out nine flights to repatriate its citizens.

Two days after the Russian invasion, Ukraine closed its airspace blocking all civilian flights.

Thousands of Ukrainians and foreigners are now trying to leave the country by land, crossing the border into neighbouring Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. Yesterday a route was opened through Moldova.

Also yesterday, the Indian embassy in Kyiv announced that it had transferred about 1,000 Indians – twice as many before the conflict – from the capital to the western part of the country, towards Lviv, far from the fighting. Of these, 400 students left the city by train.

Hundreds of other students are stuck in bunkers and temporary shelters in Kharkiv. One died in the Russian bombing.

Operation Ganga, the name given by Indian government to its evacuation plan, is set to continue over the coming days, as thousands of Indians are still stranded in the East European country.

Of the 20,000 before the start of the conflict, only 4,000 managed to fly out before Ukrainian authorities closed the country’s airspace. Counting those evacuated in the last few days, about 14,000 Indians still have to be repatriated.

With more than 18,000 students, India had the largest contingent among Ukraine’s 76,000 foreign students.

Many future doctors chose Ukraine mainly for two reasons: high-quality training and low fees.

Ukraine ranks fourth in Europe by the number of medical degrees and post-graduate specialisations. Six years of medical training in one of its universities cost an average of 1.7 million rupees (US$ 22,500).

State universities in India are cheaper, but entrance exams are tough. Those who cannot afford to go to expensive private universities prefer to go abroad.

In order to practice at home, aspiring doctors must take the Foreign Medical Graduate Exam. Of the 4,000 Ukraine-trained students who take it every year, only about 700 pass it.

Still, this has not discouraged Indians since a Ukrainian degree is recognised in Europe, giving graduates the possibility to practice medicine in other countries.

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