Indian student dies in shelling in Kharkiv as Russia intensifies military operations against Ukraine
New Delhi, March 1, 2022
An Indian medical student in Ukraine was killed in shelling by Russian forces in the northeastern city of Kharkiv this morning as Moscow escalated its military attacks against the country and advanced relentlessly towards Kyiv, the capital city.
The student, Naveen Shekarappa Gyanagoudar, 22, hailed from Karnataka and was a fourth-year student at a medical college in Kharkiv, sources said.
Naveen and his friends had spent the last few days in a bunker and he had stepped out to a nearby store this morning, soon after curfew was lifted, to buy some food and other supplies without waking up his friends, who were still sleeping.
According to various accounts, he was waiting in a long queue to make the purchases when he was killed in shelling by Russian forces.
His friends said they found out about the tragedy only when they received a call by a local person who rang them up, using Naveen's mobile telephone to alert them that their friend was no more.
"With profound sorrow we confirm that an Indian student lost his life in shelling in Kharkiv this morning. The Ministry is in touch with his family," Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on Twitter to confirm the death.
"We convey our deepest condolences to the family," he said.
The news of the student's death came at a time when there is an escalation of the fighting and long columns of Russian troops are said to be advancing on Ukrainian capital Kyiv.
Bagchi also said that Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla is calling in Ambassadors of Russia and Ukraine to reiterate India's demand for urgent safe passage for Indian nationals who are still in Kharkiv and cities in other conflict zones.
"Similar action is also being undertaken by our Ambassadors in Russia and Ukraine," he added.
Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, came under heavy shelling by Russian forces today, which damaged many buildings and installations.
Russian troops also surrounded Kyiv on Tuesday and asked civilians to leave the city urgently.
"All civilians in the city can freely leave the Ukrainian capital along the Kyiv-Vasylkiv highway. This direction is open and safe," Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
Meanwhile, a pall of gloom descended on Haveri, Naveen's home town in Karnataka, when the news reached his parents.
The parents of other students who were with Naveen expressed anguish over the death and appealed to the State and Central governments to get their children out of Ukraine.
Venkatesh Vaisar, father of Amit Vaisar, a student stranded in Ukraine said, "Naveen was with our boys, he went out to bring snacks. Since there was nothing to eat, he ventured out in search of food. What is the government doing all this while? It should take immediate action," he said.
"Shekarappa's (Naveen's father) boy died today. We all have only one child. All of us humbly request concerned officers to bring them back from Ukraine. Please do not harass us. Otherwise, we have no way out but to commit suicide. We will hold local MP Shivakumar Udasi responsible for our deaths. We have only one child, there is no life without him," an emotional Venkatesh Vaisar said.
"Our boys are in touch with us. For three days they had nothing to eat. We have been pleading with everyone. We have also submitted a letter to Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Mining Pralhad Joshi, but there is no use," he reacted angrily.
Sridhar Krishnamurthy Vaishya, father of Suman Sridhar Vaishya also hailing from Haveri, who is stuck in Ukraine said, though his son was constantly calling up local MP Shivakumar Udasi for a week, he is not receiving the phone. What should we do? My son has sent a message saying he needs help. He could see that his message had been read but there was no reply from the MP.
"Three boys known to us from Haveri had gone to Ukraine, one among them is gone now. We have pinned our hopes on God about the safe return of our children."
The family of Naveen Gyanagoudar was consoled by former Chief Minister B. S. Yediyurappa over the phone. He has assured Shekarappa that the government is with his family and all efforts are being made to bring back Naveen's body to India.
Family sources said, "Naveen had gone out of the bunker at 6.45 a.m. in the morning to the supermarket just 500 metres away in extreme cold to get some food. At around 8.30 a.m. a big sound was heard. His friend Yashvanth asked all his friends to call up Naveen. However, the call was answered by another person. Since they did not understand the language, they took the help of locals to know that Naveen has been killed and his body is kept in a forensic facility."
The family has also been told that Naveen chose to stay with juniors and told his batch mates that he will join them later.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to the father of Naveen and expressed his deep condolences.