In the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, thousands of Indian students were left stranded. Many of them made distress videos from their universities in Ukraine, while several others criticised the government’s delayed or inadequate response after returning home. This has given rise to a barrage of misinformation and propaganda on social media and mainstream media alike, attempting to shift the blame of the students’ predicament on the students themselves. Alt News debunked a video where a false quote was attributed to mock a student. In another instance, a student was falsely accused of “pretending” to be in Ukraine.

Now, a video is viral that shows students mocking television news media’s coverage of events leading up to the invasion. While some students can be heard denying the possibility of a war, others can be heard saying that Russia has withdrawn some of its troops. This clip is being shared on social media to claim there were “enough warnings” issued by the government ahead of Russia’s assault on February 24, but the students did not take them seriously.

The video has also been shared by multiple users on Facebook.

Misleading

We rummaged through the replies to tweets carrying the video and came across multiple links to the YouTube channel that had originally posted the video on February 16.

The complete video starts with a montage of different clips from Indian television news. In one clip, a news anchor says “only 1 hour and 23 minutes left” before the war begins. From the very beginning, the tone of the vlog is established – a light-hearted mockery of how dramatically events were presented by TV news. At 2:33 minutes the interviewer (Sourav) laughs saying Russia is going to invade in 1 hour 20 minutes.

This bit from the complete video is being shared to portray that the students did not take the threat of a Russian invasion seriously despite the Indian government issuing “enough warnings”.

Before this video was uploaded on YouTube, the Indian Embassy had issued one advisory. This can hardly be classified as “enough warnings”. Moreover, the advisory did not urge Indian nationals to immediately leave Ukraine while commercial options are available but said those whose stay is “non-essential may consider” leaving on a temporary basis.

Furthermore, at 2:10 minutes in the vlog, a student says that Russia has pulled back some of its troops. This is correct. On February 15, Russia indeed said that it is pulling back some of its troops from the Ukrainian border. The news was reported by multiple media outlets.

In a rapidly changing situation, with updates being reported every few hours, it would be dishonest to conclude that these students did not care for their own safety on the basis of a video that was recorded at least eight days before the invasion.

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The Indian Embassy in Ukraine had also asked the students to “not panic” and maintained this stance until February 20.

On February 16, the Embassy issued an FAQ for students where it asked them to not panic. The first question on the FAQ was regarding overbooked flights.

It is important to note that there was only one direct flight to Delhi and the rest were connecting flights.

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That same day, an hour later, another release was issued by the Embassy that again asked students not to panic.

On February 18, three special Air India flights were announced which would operate on “22nd, 24th and 26th February”.

However, students were complaining that the flights were being quickly sold out and many of them were also unable to afford the high fares.

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On February 20, the Embassy issued a second advisory asking all nationals whose stay is not essential and “all” students to leave Ukraine by available commercial or charter flights. The language of the advisory changed from “not to panic” to “leave”.

The next day, on February 21, three more Air India flights were announced – one on February 25 and two on February 27.

On February 22, Air India operated a flight as scheduled and brought back 242 Indian nationals. The same day, the embassy announced another advisory to students that asked them to “immediately leave”, rather than wait for confirmation from university officials regarding online classes.

On February 24, the second flight scheduled by Air India had to return back to India as Ukraine had shut down its airspace for commercial flights. By now, Russia had already announced to invade Ukraine.

Looking at the timeline of the events, it is evident that the students did not anticipate a full-fledged war. They were hoping that online classes would be announced and they would be able to leave on time. The government’s first few advisories asked the students to leave as a precautionary measure. The Indian Embassy advised citizens to “immediately leave” only on February 22.

In comparison, the US state department had recommended on January 23 that all US citizens in Ukraine should depart the country immediately. The US issued more than 10 notices until February 24 that informed citizens of the increased threat from a possible Russian invasion and advised them to depart when commercial flight options remain available. On February 11, Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan warned during a press briefing, “Any American in Ukraine should leave as soon as possible, and in any event in the next 24 to 48 hours.”

The Indian government has garnered criticism for its response to the crisis. A pattern has emerged online and on mainstream media to blame the students for their plight. Not only are the government’s delayed measures being exaggerated but the students are being mocked, trolled and portrayed as “entitled millennials” with unreasonable expectations from a caring administration.

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About the Author

Kalim is a journalist with a keen interest in tech, misinformation, culture, etc