Press Trust of india

Ukraine and Russia begin 2nd round of talks

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Indian students stuck in Ukraine's north-eastern city of Sumy appeal for help

Kyiv/New Delhi:  Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office says a second round of talks with Russia about the war in Ukraine has begun in neighbouring Belarus.

A video released by Zelenskyy’s office Thursday showed the informally dressed Ukrainian delegation walking into the meeting room where they shook hands with Russian delegates in suits and ties.

The talks are aimed at stopping the fighting that has sent more than 1 million people fleeing over Ukraine’s borders, but the two sides appeared to have little common ground.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned Ukraine that it must quickly accept the Kremlin’s demand for its “demilitarisation” and declare itself neutral, formally renouncing its bid to join NATO.

Putin has long contended that Ukraine’s turn toward the West is a threat to Moscow, an argument he used to justify last week’s invasion.

The talks came as the Russian military made significant gains in the south of Ukraine as part of an effort to sever the country’s connection to the Black and Azov seas.

Meanwhile, as the Ukraine crisis deepens with each passing day, students still stuck in the north-eastern city of Sumy have appealed for help, hoping they will be evacuated before they are faced with a situation like in Kiev and Kharkiv.

The eastern part of Ukraine has been witnessing intense fighting between Russian and Ukrainian troops. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) here said on Wednesday that efforts are on to reach cities in the eastern part of that country, though it is not easy.

As fighting intensified in Kharkiv, India on Wednesday asked its nationals to leave the second-largest Ukrainian city urgently to three nearby places “even on foot”, while Russia promised to create “humanitarian corridors” for evacuation of Indians from the conflict zones.

“We are stuck here in Sumy. We are waiting for evacuation but we are not getting any update….we are helpless here. Our daily groceries, essentials, food stuff…all supplies are low. Situation is not good outside too. I hope we hear from the government soon,” Sheikh Abrar, a fourth year student at the Medical Institute of Sumy State University, told PTI over phone.

Abrar claimed that over 500 Indian students are stranded in Sumy, which is located close to the Russian border.

Ajith Gangadharan, another fourth year medical student, said, “We are located so close to the Russia border. All our ways are blocked, the railway tracks are damaged, how are we supposed to get out and be safe?”

“The embassy has sent advisories to students, telling them to use only the western border of Ukraine and reach the neighbouring countries of Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Moldova. But since we are so far off and in a different part of the country, we cannot reach there easily and we haven’t got any update from the embassy too about those stranded in Sumy,” said Ujjwal Tandekar, a medical student.

The unfolding situation has not only left Indian students scrambling to reach a safe place but has also kept their families back home on pins and glued to TV and internet for constant updates.

“It is a nightmare. Every night I go to bed praying my son studying in Ukraine is alive the next day. Every unanswered or unreachable call sends me in a tizzy thinking something happened. The government has got so many students back but why no focus on Sumy,” said Seema Sasmal, whose son is pursuing an MBBS course in Ukraine.

Russia on Wednesday said it is working “intensely” to create a “humanitarian corridor” for safe passage to Russian territory of Indian nationals stuck in Kharkiv, Sumy and other conflict zones in Ukraine following a request from New Delhi.

Asked when the “humanitarian corridors” will be activated, Alipov said he hoped they would be in place as “soon as possible”.

Russia launched its attack on Ukraine last Thursday.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs, nearly 17,000 Indian nationals have left Ukraine’s borders since advisories were issued over a fortnight back.

An estimated 20,000 Indian nationals, mainly medical students, reside in Ukraine.

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