New Delhi [India] : Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Sandeep Singh on Wednesday said that the Indian Air Force (IAF) can send up to four aircraft to help the Centre's efforts to evacuate Indian nationals stranded in Ukraine under 'Operation Ganga'.
He also informed that the four aircraft can bring back 200 people on each trip.
Addressing a press conference, Singh assured that the Air Force would safely bring back stranded Indians in Ukraine, and said, "IAF can send four aircraft in a day to evacuate Indians stranded in Ukraine, and 200 people will be brought back in one round. I am sure we will bring all our people back safely."
He apprised that, since today morning, three IAF aircraft have been sent to evacuate Indians.
"The evacuation operation will run round the clock. Relief materials are also being sent. The operation is underway in coordination with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA)," Singh said.
Notably, another IAF aircraft is scheduled to fly to Poland to facilitate the evacuation of stranded Indians.
The Vice Chief of Air Staff informed that the sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States will not affect the IAF significantly.
"India's relations with both countries are strong," he added.
The US President Joe Biden has announced the suspension of flights from Russia in the US airspace and has also said that they are cutting off Russia's largest banks from the international financial system and preventing Russia's central bank from defending the Russian Ruble making Putin's USD 630 Billion "war fund" worthless.
After Russia's forces launched military operations in Ukraine on February 24, the Government of India launched 'Operation Ganga' to bring back stranded Indian nationals from the conflict-torn Ukraine. As part of the 'Operation Ganga' mission, special flights are being operated to facilitate returns of the stranded Indians free of cost. The first such evacuation flight carrying 219 Indian nationals stranded in Ukraine landed in Mumbai on February 26. Several such flights have landed in the country so far.
The 24x7 control centres have been set up to assist in the evacuation of Indian nationals through the border crossing points with Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. A new route has been opened through Moldova and an MEA team is also stationed there. The team will assist in the evacuation of Indians through Romania.
A dedicated Twitter Account (@opganga) has been set up to assist Operation Ganga. The Indian Embassy in Kyiv has advised Indian citizens against moving to any of the border checkpoints without prior coordination with government officials at border posts.
In a bid to energize the evacuation efforts, the Government of India appointed four special envoys who will oversee evacuation operations of stranded Indians in Ukraine's neighbouring countries. Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri will oversee evacuation efforts in Hungary, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju in Slovakia, Gen (retd) VK Singh in Poland while Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia will be going to Romania and will also go to Moldova.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has held several meetings so far to review the ongoing efforts under 'Operation Ganga' to bring back Indians stranded in Ukraine. He has also said that India will help people from neighbouring countries and developing countries who are stranded in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla informed on Tuesday that all Indian nationals have left Kyiv and nearly 60 per cent of Indians in Ukraine have left the country so far. He said that out of an estimated 20,000 Indian citizens in Ukraine, 60 per cent have left the country since the first advisory was issued by the government."Of the remaining 40 per cent, roughly half remain in the conflict zone in Kharkiv and the other half have either reached the western border of Ukraine or are heading towards the western border. They are generally out of conflict areas," Shringla said.
An Indian student, Naveen Shekharappa died in Ukraine's Kharkiv following shelling in the area on Tuesday. He hailed from the Haveri district in Karnataka. PM Modi has spoken to the father of Naveen Shekharappa to express his condolences.