Air India's special flight leaves for Ukraine to bring back Indian nationals
Air India's special flight left for Ukraine this morning to bring back Indian nationals stranded in the former soviet state which has found itself in the middle of soaring tensions between Russia and the West. The Dreamliner B-787 aircraft, with a capacity of over 200 seats, has been deployed for the special operation. It will land in Delhi tonight. More than 20,000 Indian students and nationals live in different parts of Ukraine.
A day after the Indian government removed restrictions on the number of flights to and from Ukraine under the air bubble arrangement, Air India had on February 18 announced that it will operate three Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) flights between India and Ukraine this month. These were scheduled for February 22, 24 and 26. The flights will operate to and from Boryspil International Airport, Ukraine's largest airport.
Attempts to prevent the Russian invasion of Ukraine were dealt a severe blow as President Vladimir Putin signed mutual aid and friendship agreements with rebel leaders in the Kremlin today. "I believe it is necessary to take a long-overdue decision, to immediately recognise the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic," he said. Russia also ordered its army to launch a "peacekeeping mission" into the areas.
Ukraine has called the mission "occupation troops" and demanded their immediate withdrawal.
US President Joe Biden, who had repeatedly warned Russia against recognising rebel territories, swiftly announced financial sanctions against the territories recognised by Russia in eastern Ukraine, even though the two regions already had very limited dealings with the US and its citizens. The US has announced that it will also impose sanctions on Moscow on Tuesday. India said that the escalations of tensions were a matter of great concern and that the immediate priority should be the de-escalation of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. India has repeatedly stressed that the safety and well being of its national is a priority. At the United Nations Security Council Briefing on the implementation of the Minsk Agreements on Ukraine last week, India had stressed "quiet and constructive" diplomacy and advised against any steps that might increase tensions. The Russian embassy in India had welcomed India's "balanced, principled and independent approach". Russia's bold move has snowballed into what could be the most critical East-West confrontation since the cold war. The United Nations Security Council is holding an emergency meeting today at the request of Ukraine, the US, 5 European nations and Mexico.
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