NEW DELHI: New Delhi denied on Thursday Russian claims that Ukraine was holding Indian students hostage in Kharkiv, instead thanking Ukraine for its help in evacuations from the embattled city.
"We note that with the cooperation of the Ukrainian authorities, many students have left Kharkiv yesterday," said Indian foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi.
"We have not received any reports of any hostage situation regarding any student," he added in a statement.
New Delhi's declaration came after Moscow said Indian students in Kharkiv were being used as a "human shield" by Ukrainian security forces.
"These students have already been, in effect, taken hostage by the Ukrainian power agencies that are using them as a human shield and are doing everything to prevent their leaving for Russia," the Kremlin said in a statement following a video call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday.
"The Kyiv authorities are fully responsible for this," it added, saying Putin told Modi that Moscow was trying to organise the evacuation of Indian students from Kharkiv via a humanitarian corridor.
Russia's defence ministry also said Ukrainian authorities were holding a group of Indian students by force in Kharkiv, with ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov telling a televised briefing: "They have practically been taken hostage."
A brief statement from Modi's office after his call with Putin said only that "many Indian students are stuck" in the city, and that the two men discussed their evacuation.
Bagchi noted Thursday: "A large number of Indian nationals have been evacuated from Ukraine in the last few days.
"We appreciate the help extended by the Ukrainian authorities to make this possible," he added.
Before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine last week, there were more than 20,000 Indians in Ukraine. Around 3,000 remain, mostly in Kharkiv.
The country's second city has come under intense shelling by Russian forces, with police and university buildings bombarded and government offices reduced to rubble.
Among those killed there was an Indian student on Tuesday.