Hundreds of students trapped in Ukraine’s Sumy amid shelling | Russia-Ukraine war News

At least 1,500 foreign students are trapped in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Sumy, as shelling from the Russian army continues for a tenth day after humanitarian corridors failed to materialize.

Shivangi Shibu, a 25-year-old medical student from India, was woken up at her university hostel at dawn on Saturday by the sound of shelling.

“If I have to describe my day, it stared with the sound of missiles or bombs at 5am, then we heard street fighting, gunshots. We were all running towards the bunker panicking. And then again around 10am [we heard] another bomb, ”the student recounted.

“We are scared and mentally exhausted,” she said, adding that there are about 700 Indian students stranded in the city.

So far students have been relying on the hostel’s food supplies, as well as the university’s stocks, but water has been cut in the city for three days, forcing them to melt snow to drink and to cook with.

Sumy lies about 48km (30 miles) from the border with Russia – it was one of the first cities to be attacked by Russian forces after President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24. So far, fighting has mostly taken place on the outskirts of the city, but there are fears that Russian troops may soon advance into the center.

At the second round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations on Thursday, the two parties reached an understanding for a ceasefire to create humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from several cities across the country, including Sumy.

But the first corridor that was supposed to allow for the departure of about 200,000 civilians from the southern port city of Mariupol and 15,000 from Volnovakha in eastern Ukraine collapsed on Saturday as Kyiv accused Russia of resuming heavy bombing. Moscow claimed that it had respected the ceasefire and alleged that Ukrainian forces fired on Russian positions.

“We are really demoralized, everyone wants to go home,” Precious Ogunbayo, a 21-year-old medical student from Nigeria, told Al Jazeera. “We keep asking for help, but it’s not coming at all,” she added.

About 400 Nigerian students are currently in Sumy, the second largest group of foreign students after Indians. Other students include citizens of Ghana, Rwanda, Turkmenistan, Jordan and Palestine.

Like many others, Ogunbayo tried to flee the city but taxi or bus tickets cost up to $ 400 per person, while some who tried to escape in their own cars were shot at and returned to Sumy. “You would have to be lucky to find a driver who knows the way and is willing to risk his life,” Ogunbayo said.

Students hide in a bunker in the city of Sumy amid shelling
Students hide in a bunker in the city of Sumy amid shelling [Courtesy of Precious Ogunbayo]

Tatyana Mayboroda, who used to work at Sumy’s State University and is now an international students’ coordinator helping the evacuation effort, said one of the key issues preventing the evacuation is logistics.

Two key bridges, one in the south that connects to Kharkiv and another one which leads to Kyiv have been destroyed, she said, adding that the train station junction in Konitop, which connects all trains going to and from Sumy, has been damaged and occupied by the Russian army.

“Food is not unlimited, and with no safe roads, we can’t supply more food other than what is in stock in the city. So we need this evacuation to be sorted as soon as possible, ”she told Al Jazeera. “The situation is becoming more and more desperate,” she added.

More than 10,000 Indian students have been evacuated from Ukraine over the past week, including from the besieged city of Kharkiv, the Indian embassy in Kyiv said in a statement on Saturday – but not from Sumy.

The embassy assured, though, that it “will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to ensure the safe evacuation of Indian students”.

“I urge you for some more patience and forbearance so that we can ensure your safety and security,” it added.

Al Jazeera tried to reach Nigeria’s foreign ministry spokesperson for a comment on the situation faced by students in Sumy, but has so far not received an answer.

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