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World peace gets a blow as Russia attacks Ukraine

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Conflict reverberates around globe

Kyiv: Russia launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine on Thursday, hitting cities and bases with airstrikes or shelling, as civilians piled into trains and cars to flee.

Ukraine’s government said Russian tanks and troops rolled across the border and accused Moscow of unleashing a “full-scale war” that could rewrite the geopolitical order and whose fallout already reverberated around the globe.

In announcing a major military operation, Russian President Vladimir Putin deflected global condemnation and cascading new sanctions — and chillingly referred to his country’s nuclear arsenal as he threatened any foreign country attempting to interfere with “consequences you have never seen”.

Sirens rang out in Ukraine’s capital and people massed in train stations and took to roads, as the government said the former Soviet republic was seeing a long-anticipated invasion from the east, north and south and reported more than 40 soldiers had been killed and dozens wounded.

“A full-scale war in Europe has begun,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said. “Russia is not only attacking Ukraine, but the rules of normal life in the modern world.”

World leaders decried the attack, which could cause massive casualties, topple Ukraine’s democratically elected government, upend the post-Cold War security order and result in severe economic impact around the world from soaring heating bills to spikes in food prices.

“We woke up in a different world today,” Germany’s foreign minister said, as NATO agreed to beef up land and air forces on its eastern flank near Ukraine and Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy cut diplomatic ties with Moscow and declared martial law. Ukrainians who had long braced for the prospect of an assault were urged to stay home and not to panic, even as officials said Russian troops were rolling into Ukraine, and big explosions were heard in the capital of Kyiv, Kharkiv in the east and Odesa in the west.

After weeks of denying plans to invade, Putin justified his actions in an overnight televised address, asserting that the attack was needed to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine — a false claim the US had predicted he would make as a pretext for an invasion.

He accused the US and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demands to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and for security guarantees. He claimed that Russia does not intend to occupy Ukraine but will move to “demilitarise” it and bring those who committed crimes to justice.

The attacks came first from the air. Later Ukrainian authorities described ground invasions in multiple regions, and border guards released security camera footage Thursday showing a line of Russian military vehicles crossing into Ukraine’s government-held territory from Russian-annexed Crimea.

The Russian military claimed to have wiped out Ukraine’s entire air defences in a matter of hours, and European authorities declared the country’s air space an active conflict zone. Russia’s claims could not immediately be verified, nor could Ukrainian ones that they had shot down several Russian aircraft.

The Ukrainian air defence system and air force date back to the Soviet era and are dwarfed by Russia’s massive air power and precision weapons.

US President Joe Biden pledged new sanctions to punish Russia for the “unprovoked and unjustified attack”. The president said he planned to speak to Americans on Thursday after a meeting of the Group of Seven leaders. More sanctions against Russia were expected to be announced.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba described the assault as a “full-scale invasion” and said th country would “defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now”.

In the capital, Mayor Vitaly Klitschko advised residents to stay home  unless they are involved in critical work and urged them to prepare go-bags with necessities and documents if they need to evacuate.

The consequences of the conflict and resulting sanctions on Russia started reverberating throughout the world.

World stock markets plunged and oil prices surged by nearly $6 per barrel. Market benchmarks tumbled in Europe and Asia and US futures were sharply lower. Brent crude oil jumped to over $100 per barrel Thursday on unease about possible disruption of Russian supplies. The ruble sank.

Anticipating international condemnation and countermeasures, Putin issued a stark warning to other countries not to meddle.

In a reminder of Russia’s nuclear power, Putin warned that “no one should have any doubts that a direct attack on our country will lead to the destruction and horrible consequences for any potential aggressor.”

The attack began even as the UN Security Council was holding an emergency meeting to hold off an invasion. Members still unaware of Putin’s announcement of the operation appealed to him to stand down. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the meeting, just before the announcement, telling Putin: “Give peace a chance.”

European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen later promised to hold the Kremlin accountable.

“In these dark hours, our thoughts are with Ukraine and the innocent women, men and children as they face this unprovoked attack and fear for their lives,” they said on Twitter.

Jaishankar discusses Ukraine crisis with EU High Representative Borrell

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday spoke to EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell and discussed the “grave situation” in Ukraine.

Jaishankar said the discussion included how India could contribute to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine.

“Received a call from EU HRVP @JosepBorrellF. Discussed the grave situation in Ukraine and how India could contribute to de-escalation efforts,” Jaishankar tweeted.

In a statement on the Russian offensive against Ukraine, Borrell said that he will be in touch with partners around the world to ensure the international community will be fully grasping the gravity of the moment.

India looking at ways to evacuate around 20,000 citizens from Ukraine

India on Thursday was finalising contingency plans to evacuate its citizens from Ukraine after Russia launched a large-scale military attack on its neighbouring country even as the European Union reached out to New Delhi for its contribution to defuse the “grave situation”.

With around 20,000 Indians stuck in Ukraine, the top brass of the government handling strategic affairs held a series of high-level meetings to put into operation certain contingency plans to assist the Indians.

As the Ukrainian government declared a state emergency and closed the country’s airspace for civilian flights, the Indian embassy in Kyiv issued three separate advisories in the course of the day appealing to the Indians to maintain calm and remain safe wherever they are.

The embassy said in view of the closure of the Ukrainian airspace, alternative arrangements are being made for the evacuation of Indian nationals. However, it did not provide any clarity on evacuation arrangements.

Separately, the Indian ambassador to Ukraine, Partha Satpathy, called on Indians to face the current situation with “calm and fortitude” as the situation is “highly tense and very uncertain”.

The envoy said the Ministry of External Affairs and the embassy are working on a “mission mode” to find a “solution to this difficult situation”.

In its latest advisory, the Indian embassy said the movement of people is now difficult in Ukraine as it is under martial law and those hearing air sirens and bomb warnings should find nearby bomb shelters.

“We are aware that certain places are hearing air sirens/bomb warnings. In case you are faced with such a situation, Google maps have a list of nearby bomb shelters, many of which are located in underground metros,” it said.

“While the mission is identifying a possible solution to the situation, please be aware of your surroundings, be safe, do not leave your homes unless necessary and carry your documents with you at all times,” it said.

The ambassador said the Indian embassy in Kyiv continues to remain open and operate.

“I am reaching out to you from Kyiv. Today early morning, we all woke up with the news that Ukraine is under attack. The situation is highly tense and very uncertain and this of course is causing a lot of anxiety,” he said.

“The air space is closed, railway schedules are in flux and roads are crammed. I would request everyone to stay calm and face the situation with fortitude,” Satpathy said.

He said the embassy has already reached out to the Indian diaspora in Ukraine and requested them to assist the Indians to the “best of their abilities”.

“I urge you to please stay wherever you are, in your familiar locations. Those who are in transit, please return to your familiar places of habitation,” he said.

“Those who are stranded here in Kyiv, please get in touch with your friends and colleagues in Kyiv, universities and other community members, so that you can temporarily lodge there,” Satpathy said.

Government sources said “contingency plans are being put into operation and that the immediate priority is to assist the Indians”.

In one of its advisories, the Indian embassy said: “All those who are travelling to Kyiv, including those travelling from western parts of Kyiv, are advised to return to their respective cities temporarily, especially towards safer places along with the western bordering countries.”

It is learnt that the government is exploring the possibility of facilitating the movement of the stranded Indians to Polland from where they can be evacuated. However, there is no clarity on it.

In a related development, Ukraine’s Ambassador to India Igor Polikha said India has a “special” relationship with Russia and it can play a more proactive role in de-escalation of the situation.

He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is among very few leaders who President Vladimir Putin listens to and New Delhi can use its proximity with Moscow to control the situation.

At the same time, he said Ukraine was “deeply dissatisfied” with India’s position on the crisis.

India has been pressing for de-escalation of tensions taking into account the legitimate security interests of all countries.

Meanwhile, as the situation in Ukraine worsens after the Russian attack, hundreds of stranded Indian students made desperate appeals to the government on Thursday to ensure their safe return.

Several videos emerged on social media in which teary-eyed students urged the Indian authorities to make arrangements for their return.

The videos have gone viral on social media, with several prominent personalities sharing them and calling on the government to take action.

In one such video, around a dozen visibly-distressed students were seen stranded on a railway station in the capital city of Kyiv.

“We are very worried. We are stuck at the railway station from last night. The embassy is not replying. We do not have anywhere to go, no taxi is available. No help from the embassy. What should we do?” one of the students says in the video.

In another video, students with their packed bags were seen standing outside the Indian embassy, waiting for any response from the officials.

As per estimates, over 20,000 Indians are currently staying in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, activists of NSUI, the student wing of the Indian National Congress, staged a protest outside the Ministry of External Affairs demanding the safe and early evacuation of Indian students.

“There is a war-like situation in Ukraine for last 10 days. And since then, the parents of these students are appealing the government to help them. There are around 20,000 youths working and studying in Ukraine. The students are already burdened with huge loans and now during this tough situation airlines are charging Rs 80,000 to 1 lakh to bring the students back,” National President Neeraj Kundan said.

Meanwhile, the top government brass handling strategic affairs held a series of high-level meetings to put into operation certain contingency plans to assist Indians stranded in Ukraine.

Around 200 Kashmiri students stuck in Ukraine, says students body

As Russia began military operations in Ukraine, at least 180 Kashmiri students are reportedly stuck in the country even as the Jammu and Kashmir administration has moved to bring back the students “on war footing basis”.

J&K Students’ Association national spokesperson, Nasir Khuehami said that 180 to 200 Kashmiri students studying in Ukraine colleges and universities are stuck there at a time when Russian Army has launched massive military operations.

“My son is studying at Ukraine and I am worried as I have lost contact with him,” said a parent Aijaz Ahmed, a resident of Hyderpora, Srinagar.

He said parents of all the children studying in Ukraine have decided to assemble at Press Enclave Srinagar to press for the safe return of their wards.

KNO quoted officials as saying that the Rajbhawan, the office of LG Manoj Sinha, has “started the process to bring back all the students studying at Ukraine on fast track basis”.

“We are in touch with Ukraine Embassy officials and will ensure all Kashmiri students are safely brought back,” the official said.

Meanwhile, in view of the uncertainties of the current situation in Ukraine, Kashmiri students who are studying at Ukraine have been asked by Khuehami’s students association to get in touch with them at [email protected], and on helpline numbers 9149676014, 790634 8764, 8825005327, 7006228608.

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