Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has left several Indian students stranded in different parts of the war-torn country. While many have been able to return, there are numerous others unable to cross into the borders of neighbouring countries due to intense fighting. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has said that it is deeply concerned about Indian students in Sumy, however, all students from Pisochyn have been successfully evacuated.

Data journalist from The Hindu’s Business Line, Parvathi Benu, tweeted on March 4 that the Tamil Nadu (TN) government arranged for transportation to evacuate students from Pisochyn. It paid for the transportation of 35 students from the state.

Benu had been tweeting about the plight of students. On March 3, DMK MP Kanimozhi Karunanidhi asked for the contact details of the students and the next day, a bus was arranged.

However, a counter-claim suggested that the students were evacuated due to the efforts of the central government under ‘Operation Ganga’. TV9 executive editor Aditya Raj Kaul tweeted that the Tamil Nadu government had “nothing to do” with the evacuation.

Senior advisor at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Kanchan Gupta accused Parvathi Benu of propagating “fake news”.

Pro-BJP propaganda outlets OpIndia and The Frustrated Indian published reports targeting The Hindu.

Malayalam outlet East Coast Daily also published a report accusing Parvathi Benu of spreading “fake news”.


Alt News spoke with Dr Yazhini PM, State Deputy Secretary of the DMK’s NRI wing. She said that the Tamil Nadu government paid for the transportation of 35 students from Pisochyn to the Romanian border. “I was in touch with the students. They were unable to board the buses as they were being charged $500 per person,” she said.

Dr Yazhini further informed that the Tamil Nadu government made a payment of $17,500 dollars to the bus contractor through Dr AP Vijayakumar, a former medical student of the Vinnytsia National Pirogov Medical University. Dr Vjayakumar was coordinating with state government bureaucrats, including IAS Jacintha Lazarus, Commissioner of Rehabilitation and Welfare of Non-Resident Tamils.

Speaking with Alt News, Dr Vijayakumar said, “The students got in touch with me as the buses were charging $500 dollars. Many were unable to pay the ticket fare. The Tamil Nadu government transferred the cost of transportation to the tune of $17,500 to the contractor.” He said that after the payment was made, the bus was arranged in about two hours and it took two days for the students to reach the Romanian border. The state government paid for 35 students from TN. Dr Vijaykumar also shared with us a screenshot of the transaction ID.

We also spoke with Fashi Allavuddin, a student of V N Karazin Kharkiv National University, who was among the 35 evacuees. “The Tamil Nadu government had formed a group of officials who were in contact with us. We were talking to IAS Jacintha Lazarus and IAS Ramesh, among the others assigned by the TN government,” he said. “After they arranged the bus for us to the Romanian border, volunteers of the Red Cross provided shelter and food once we crossed the border.”

Allavuddin said that students from other states were also in the bus and the Tamil Nadu government paid for the transportation cost of one student from Rajasthan and three students from Kerala. It is not known if students apart from these paid for the fare out of their own pockets.

Business Line editor Raghuvir Srinivasan responded to Kanchan Gupta by posting a thread on the events that transpired. Gupta is yet to take down his erroneous tweet.

Malini Parthasarathy, chairperson of The Hindu Group, also tweeted about false claims targeting the media outlet.

While the MEA is facilitating the evacuation of students, the Tamil Nadu government paid for the bus fare of 35 students from the state in a complementary effort. The bus was privately arranged. With students from varied parts of the country facing issues, some state governments have stepped in to help. Last week, the Odisha government reportedly arranged two buses for 25 students from Pisochyn.

Around 700 students are stranded in Sumy, an area witnessing intense fighting. Fashi Allavuddin, while extending his gratitude to the Tamil Nadu government for evacuating students from Pisochyn, said that he hopes the students from Sumy are also evacuated soon.

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About the Author

Pooja Chaudhuri is a senior editor at Alt News.