Pakistan's embassy in Ukraine on Saturday said it has received 23 more Pakistani students, who are now set to be evacuated from the country and move to Poland amid the ongoing Russian invasion.
The embassy said the students were received at the facilitation desk in the city of Lviv and came from different cities of Ukraine, including the capital, Kyiv. It added they would be transported to the Polish border through transport arranged by the embassy.
The development came amid reports of street fighting beginning in Kyiv as Russian troops stormed towards the capital and residents were urged to find shelter.
In an earlier update today, the embassy said it had managed to evacuate 70 students from Kharkiv city, which is one of the main battlegrounds of the conflict.
Meanwhile, Pakistan International Airlines announced that it had planned repatriation flights for stranded students in Ukraine. The first two flights would leave for Poland on Sunday, it added.
A day before, the Pakistani embassy said that about 35 Pakistani students had been evacuated to Poland from Ukraine.
According to a message from one of the students, some of their colleagues were able to board a Poland-bound train from the Ukrainian northeastern city of Kharkiv, which was carrying people fleeing the Russian invasion.
There are nearly 300 Pakistani students in the city. Another big group of Pakistani students is based in the capital city of Kyiv.
According to news reports, nearly 1,500 Pakistanis, including 500 students, were stranded in Ukraine since the start of the Russian assault on Thursday. Some had left the country earlier.
The embassy, earlier, said it had facilitated the evacuation of those students and was making arrangements for their further transportation to Warsaw.
The Foreign Office had said another group of 35-40 students was on the way to Ternopil from Kharkiv and expected to reach there by Saturday afternoon.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, at a media briefing, said the embassy had been temporarily moved from Kyiv to Ternopil on the border with Poland to facilitate evacuations. He said all Pakistanis in Ukraine were safe.
The embassy has been advising the students to reach Ternopil. However, students in messages on social media questioned how could they travel hundreds of kilometres in the absence of transport and under the precarious security situation. They also complained of difficulties in contacting the embassy.
Earlier, videos of students and other Pakistanis appealing for assistance in evacuation emerged on social media.
Pakistani missions in Poland, Romania and Hungary were, meanwhile, told by the Foreign Office to assist the Pakistanis coming out of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, PIA chief retired Air Marshal Arshad Malik on Friday had called Pakistan’s Ambassador in Ukraine retired Maj Gen Noel Khokhar and discussed with the latter different options to evacuate Pakistani students stranded there.
According to a statement, the PIA chief said arrangements had been made to bring back the students. He said all the students would gather in Ternopil and reach Poland via a land route from where they would be brought to Pakistan through special flight operations.
Earlier, in a tweet, the PIA chief had said that currently, Ukraine’s airspace was closed, but various options were being worked out for the safe evacuation of the Pakistani students.
“I spoke to HE Gen Noel, our ambassador in Ukraine, he was wide awake with his full team in embassy, discussed various options to recover our students through #PIA, airspace is closed but working out various options In Sha Allah, we shall find a way, PIA is a call away,” he tweeted.