Air India flight scheduled to evacuate Indians from Ukraine forced to return after airspace closed


An Air India flight scheduled to evacuate Indians stranded in crisis-hit Ukraine was forced to return to Delhi this morning after the eastern European country closed its airspace. A special flight landed at Delhi's Indira Gandhi Airport earlier today, carrying 182 Indians.

Over 20,000 Indian citizens - several of whom are medical students - were in Ukraine as the crisis with Russia escalated rapidly over the past week, leading to concerns over their safety.

On Tuesday around 240 Indians were flown back from on an Air India Boeing aircraft.

The flight took off from Kyiv and landed at the Delhi airport late that night. That was the first of four scheduled evacuation flights, with the others pencilled in for February 24 and February 26.

Four more had been scheduled between February 25 and March 6.

It is unclear if these flights will be allowed to operate as scheduled. Explosions were heard in Mariupol in the eastern part of Ukraine early today, shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a 'military operation', triggering fears of a full-blown armed conflict in the area that could pull in the major western powers.

US President Joe Biden has warned of "catastrophic loss of life" after Putin's announcement.

Global leaders have joined in the condemnation, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz calling Russia's invasion of Ukraine a "glaring violation" of international rights.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also condemned Russia's actions and said Putin had chosen 'a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack'.

European Union chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel have warned Russia it will be held accountable for its actions. Tensions have escalated since Russia recognised two rebel regions in Ukraine - Donetsk and Luhansk - as independent territories, in a violation of a 2015 peace plan.

This allowed the Kremlin to move troops into Ukraine. A series of sanctions from the US, the UK and the European Union followed, as well as other countries.

Russia has dismissed the sanctions as attempts at intimidation by western powers and has insisted it does not plan to invade Ukraine. Putin, however, has laid the blame of any potential bloodshed in this invasion at the hands of the Ukrainian government.

(Except for the headline and the pictorial description, this story has not been edited by THE DEN staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)