No information has been provided by Delhi, but Putin says that 3,000 Indian people are being imprisoned in Ukraine.
Hours after India declared it had "not received any information of any hostage crisis involving any student," Russian President Vladimir Putin alleged Thursday that the Ukrainian military is holding over 3,000 Indian citizens at the Kharkiv railway station in eastern Ukraine.
Officials in New Delhi saw this as a challenging scenario in a battle zone, where inhabitants have been hunkered down in bunkers and underground shelters, and movement is restricted owing to a curfew-like condition on the streets.
The Associated Press reported shortly after Putin's statements that Ukrainian and Russian officials had achieved a tentative deal to set up safe corridors to evacuate civilians and supply humanitarian supplies.
In its summary of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's phone chat with Putin on Wednesday night, the Kremlin also mentioned Indians being held prisoner.
"Thousands of young people, students who were studying at Ukraine's institutions were kept for more than one day," Putin said in Moscow Thursday night, speaking in Russian. More than 3,000 Indian citizens gathered at Kharkiv's railway station. And they're still holding them there, including 576 individuals in Sumy."
He said that "neo-Nazis opened fire on Chinese students attempting to flee Kharkiv, injuring two of them."
"Hundreds of foreigners want to flee the combat zone, but they are not permitted to do so." Essentially, they are kidnapping prisoners in order to postpone their release... "Our military (has) opened safe passage, green corridors to allow them to leave safely, and as they are giving them transportation so that civilians, foreign citizens get an opportunity to move to safer zones, and once again... are not allowing this to happen," Putin said, adding, "Essentially, they are throwing them under gunfire."
Bagchi confirmed hours later at a press conference that there was no hostage issue and that India was not aware of any such rumors. Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, he said, met with the Ukrainian deputy foreign minister late Wednesday evening over the safe evacuation of Indian students from Kharkiv.
It is believed that 4,000 Indians, largely medical students, are stranded in Ukraine's eastern and northern regions, close to the Russian border.
According to the MEA, over 1,000 Indians had fled Kharkiv for neighboring Pisochyn in response to its alert issued a day earlier. According to Bagchi, a few hundred Indians are still thought to be trapped in Kharkiv, and India is closely monitoring events in the city as well as the situation in other crisis zones.
"We are presently looking at transportation alternatives to take them from there to either western or southern Ukraine, depending on the transit options," he added.
As the Russian attack on Kharkiv began on Thursday, the Indian embassy in Ukraine asked all Indian nationals in the city to fill out an online form as soon as possible.
Following the Kremlin's announcement on Wednesday night that Indian students in Kharkiv had been "taken hostage" by Ukrainian security forces who were using them as "human shields" to "prevent them from leaving for Russian territory," the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry "urgently called on the governments of India, Pakistan, China, and other countries whose students have become hostages of the Russian armed aggression in Kharkiv and Sumy, to demand from Moscow