Siege of Mariupol – 2 months of Ukraine-Russia War

St. Petersburg faced the worst crisis during the 2nd World War, and goes down in history books as the longest siege ever taken on a city. The city was then known as Leningrad, and was the second largest city in the Soviet Union. During the 2nd World War, the city remained cut off by German and the Finnish army for 4 ever-lasting years. However, at the end, the Soviet army achieved a breakthrough and drove the Germans and the Nazi regime to the point of extinction.

In the ongoing Ukraine-Russia, Russia had air superiority, a bigger army and modern weaponry. However, Ukraine managed to hold back Russian aggression in most areas and even drove the Russian army back in various sectors. However, the Donbas region, the main centre of conflict, had strong backing of the separatists, and the nationals are finding it difficult to hold ground and stop attacks from both the Russian army and the Russian-backed separatists.

The cities of Donetsk and Luhansk already have some degree of autonomy as the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. Russia also had control over Sevastopol and the Crimean peninsula. Only the city of Mariupol, in the Donetsk region, posed the final hurdle between Russian-controlled Crimea and Russian-backed regions of Ukraine.

Since the war began, Mariupol witnessed heavy fighting among 3 parties, the advancing Russian army from both Crimea and Donetsk sides, and the Ukrainian army, which includes the Azov Battalion, and the Russian-backed separatists in the region. Russia had surrounded Mariupol from 3 sides, and for more than a month, the only connection between Government-controlled Ukraine and Mariupol was the Sea of Azov. Even the Sea of Azov was mostly Russian controlled, leaving Mariupol to starve and surrender. The condition became so worse that the entire city was razed to the ground by Russian missiles and most residents were left without adequate food and water to live.

Slowly but steadily, Russia advanced to control Mariupol as capturing it would ensure a land bridge between Crimea and the Donbas region. The city hold up for 2 long months, but lost more than 20,000 civilians. Half the city fled to other Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors, and the other half was forcefully dislocated to Russia. As of now, Russia controls almost the entire city except the Azovstal Steel Plant, a massive industry covering 11 square kilometers. Russia does not want to take the Steel Plant by force, but let the civilians and the army living inside to die of hunger or forcefully surrender. However, as per latest updates, Russia have agreed for civilian evacuation from Azovstal where more than 2000 soldiers and an estimated equal number of civilians are trapped. With taking of Mariupol Russia had an upper hand in the war, though it withdrew from Kyiv and its surrounding areas, after encountering fierce resistance.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Evacuation of Indians from Ukraine Amidst War

As Russia and Ukraine went into war against each other, thousands of Indians remain stranded in Ukrainian cities which are under shelling from Russian forces. Students form the bulk of the Indians living in Ukraine, who are pursuing higher studies from universities in that country. To ensure their safe return to India, before a war breaks out, Tata Group owned Air India operated special flights to Kyiv. However, most critics have termed it as too little too late.

On the eve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the first special Air India flight from Kyiv flew from Kyiv and reached Delhi the next morning. The first batch consisted of 240 passengers, mostly students, who had to pay a hefty fee to return to their country. The flight left Kyiv on 22nd February and landed in New Delhi in the early hours of 23rd February. A Ukraine International Airlines flight also reached safely on Thursday morning, 24th February, with 182 Indian citizens, mostly students. More Air India special flights were scheduled on 24th, 26th February and 6th March. But as Ukraine closed their airspace on 24th February, the scheduled Air India flight had to return from midway. More than 20,000 Indians are still stranded in Ukraine, waiting for their chance to catch a flight back home..

As there is no way to return home by air from Ukraine, thousands of Indians set on foot or local transport to reach Poland, Romania, Slovakia or Hungary, the countries which share land border with Ukraine. Air India now focuses on bringing back stranded Indians from these countries. The second Air India evacuation flight with 250 Indians touched Delhi on Sunday, Feb 27, from the Romanian capital, Bucharest. The third Air India evacuation flight reached Mumbai the same day with 219 Indians from Budapest, the capital of Hungary. However, more than 400 students have lined up at the Ukraine-Poland border, in freezing conditions, unable to cross-over to Poland. Though border authorities allowed Ukrainians to cross-over, most Indians were barred from entering Poland.

More flights are expected to follow in coming days from neighbouring countries of Ukraine, to bring back Indians fleeing Ukraine. Though the Indian Government is proud to evacuate 2000 Indians from Ukraine, a lot more is to be done, as more than 18,000 Indians are still stranded in Ukraine, most in cities like Kyiv and Kharkiv on the main area of clashes. Overall, as many critics say, the evacuation effort by India is yet to be up to the mark.

Written by – Himadri Paul