An Indian Air Force (IAF) C-17, a heavy-lift transport aircraft carrying 220 Indian nationals stranded in Ukraine reached the Hindon airbase on Thursday. The IAF C-17 flight had departed from Hungary's capital Budapest on Wednesday. Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt received the Indian citizens on their arrival.
Bhatt also interacted with the passengers. "The aircraft which brought students earlier has been sent for evacuation as soon as students get off of this aircraft. It will again take off for evacuation. It is our duty to bring every single student. I congratulate every crew for working day and night," said MoS Defence Ajay Bhatt.
"Highly obliged to our @IAF_MCC crew and pilots for their round the clock service and support to Government's efforts in bringing our citizens safely back to home. #OperationGanga," he tweeted. Earlier on Thursday, the first IAF aircraft carrying around 200 Indian nationals from the Romanian capital Bucharest reached the Hindon airbase. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had issued orders to the Air Force to pitch in the rescue operations to augment the level of Operation Ganga.
Notably, the American C-17 Globemasters and IL-76 transport aircraft are the most capable of flying to long distances with around 400 passengers. The C-17 transport aircraft had helped in a big way to evacuate citizens and officials from Kabul when the Taliban captured Afghanistan and forced Americans to exit from there. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday said nine flights took off on Thursday from Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Poland.
"Nine flights have taken off today from Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Poland. Includes IAF aircraft. 6 flights more are expected to depart shortly. Altogether, will bring back more than 3000 Indian nationals," tweeted Jaishankar. A total of 17,000 Indian nationals have left Ukraine since the advisories were issued and flights under Operation Ganga have been increased to facilitate the evacuation of remaining students stranded in Ukraine.
The students who left Ukraine also included some Indians who had not registered with the Embassy of India in Kyiv previously. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday chaired a high-level meeting on the issue. The meeting was attended by Union Ministers S Jaishankar, Piyush Goyal, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and other officials.
For the past few days, the Prime Minister has been chairing crucial meetings on the issue. Russian forces launched military operations in Ukraine on February 24, three days after Moscow recognized Ukraine's breakaway regions - Donetsk and Luhansk - as independent entities. Several countries including the UK, the US, Canada, and the European Union have condemned Russia's military operations in Ukraine and imposed sanctions on Moscow.
These countries have also promised Ukraine to help with military aid to fight Russia. The US, Canada and European allies agreed to remove key Russian banks from the interbank messaging system, SWIFT which means Russian banks won't be able to communicate securely with banks beyond Russia's borders. President Putin has also signed a decree on special economic measures against the US and its allies.