Indian student, 21, killed by Russian missile strike in Ukraine’s Kharkiv

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A pall of gloom descended on Haveri district of Karnataka after the news of the death of student Naveen Shekarappa Gyanagoudar in Ukraine sent shock waves on the day of Maha Shivratri.

Less than 20 hours ago, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) confirmed that the 21-year-old Indian student lost his life when Russian military forces blew up a government building in Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv. He was a student at Kharkiv National Medical University.

Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Minister tweeted a video of the “barbaric” Russian missile strikes in Kharkiv.

“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. We convey our deepest condolences to the family,” the MEA tweeted.

India’s foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla called on Ambassadors of Russia and Ukraine to reiterate India’s demand for urgent safe passage of the Indian nationals who are still in Kharkiv and other cities in conflict zones.

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said on Tuesday that if the body of Naveen Shekarappa Gyanagoudar could not be retrieved immediately, the MEA should try to bring back his mortal remains in the next two to three days.

“I am saddened by the turn of events,” he said.

Speaking to reporters, Bommai said that Naveen from Haveri was pursuing his fourth year in medicine in Ukraine. He had been taking shelter in a bunker for a week. On Tuesday, he came out to join others but got killed in the air strike, becoming the first Indian casualty in the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Two other boys who were with him also hailed from Challageri village in Haveri district. One was hurt in the incident.

It was reported that Prime Minister Modi on Tuesday morning contacted the deceased student’s family to expressed his condolences. He spoke with Naveen’s father, Shekarappa Gyanagoudar, and consoled him.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also tweeted about the tragedy.

“Received the tragic news of an Indian student Naveen losing his life in Ukraine. My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. I reiterate, GOI needs a strategic plan for safe evacuation. Every minute is precious,” he wrote.

Recounting his son’s last phone call to him earlier Tuesday morning, an emotional Shekarappa Gyanagoudar said that Naveen used to telephone him at least two or three times a day.

According to family sources, the tragedy occurred when he went out to have his breakfast.

“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,” they said.

The family has also been told that Naveen chose to stay with juniors and told his batch mates that he will join them later.

The parents of other students who were with Naveen, have 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.

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 did not receive a response. 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.”

On Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting to review the progress of evacuation of stranded Indian nationals from war-hit Ukraine under ‘Operation Ganga’.

Modi was briefed about the evacuation status and was informed that over 1,750 Indian students have returned to the country so far.

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla updated the PM about arrangements made by the Indian Embassies in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Poland, all bordering Ukraine.

As of now, thousands of Indians, including students, are still stuck in Kharkiv and the Russian army has scaled up attacks on Kyiv and Kharkiv.


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