New Delhi: Indian nationals, mostly students, who were evacuated from Ukraine heaved a sigh of relief as the Air India flight carrying them landed at the airport here in the early hours of Sunday.

Suriya Subhash from Maharashtra’s Solapur, who was among the 250 Indian citizens brought back on the flight from Romanian capital Bucharest, said she was relieved to be back in her country after a “hectic journey”.

“The situation is very bad there (Ukraine). People are stranded,” she said.

The returnees belonged to different states, including Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh and Kerala etc.

They thanked the Indian government for evacuating them and saving their lives.

“The situation is not good in Ukraine. We are worried about our studies. But it is good to be back. I thank the government for bringing us back,” said Susmita Rathore, a first year medical student.

“Air India has helped us. The Indian embassy fully cooperated with us,” said another student Satyam Sambhaji from Maharashtra.

Another evacuee, Shraddha Shette, urged the government to bring back the remaining Indian students stranded in Ukraine.

“We are safe now, but other students stranded there are unsafe and they are facing issues. We are worried about them. The government should bring them back as well,” she said.

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla had said on February 24 that around 16,000 Indians, mainly students, were stranded in Ukraine.

India on Saturday began the evacuation of its stranded citizens amid the Russian military offensive in Ukraine, with the first evacuation flight, AI1944, bringing back 219 people from Bucharest to Mumbai in the evening.

The Ukrainian airspace has been closed for civil aircraft operations since February 24 morning when the Russian military offensive began. Therefore, the Indian evacuation flights are operating out of Bucharest and Budapest.

The third evacuation flight is also scheduled to reach India from Hungarian capital Budapest on Sunday.

Prior to the closure of the Ukrainian airspace, Air India had operated a flight to Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on February 22 that brought 240 people back to India.

It had planned to operate two more flights on February 24 and February 26 but could not do so as the Russian offensive began on February 24 and the Ukrainian airspace was consequently shut down.

Also read: ‘Our mission not complete till evacuation of last Indian citizen from Ukraine’

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