As Russia launched an offensive against Ukraine, Opposition leaders, mostly from the Congress, on Thursday attacked the government for not making arrangements in time to bring 20,000 Indians in Ukraine back and accused it of "turning away its face" on its nationals in this difficult time.
Some of the Congress leaders also demanded that India should take a firm stand and "unequivocally condemn" Russia's action.
Attacking the government for not acting despite repeated warnings, the Congress asked why it had not made arrangements in time to bring 20,000 Indians in Ukraine back home safely.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said,"turning away its face in every difficult situation...And remaining silent has become a habit of the Modi government. Our 20,000 Indian youth in Ukraine are forced to grapple with fear, apprehension and life-threatening situations."
"Why were arrangements not made in time to bring them safely? Is this the 'self-reliant' mission," Surjewala tweeted.
In a series of tweets in Hindi, he said,"the Government of India says - Our 20,000 Indians trapped in Ukraine should stay where they are. Because the government is busy fighting elections right now?".
"Prime Minister ji, instead of taking care of all, you are busy in election rallies... But we Indians are praying for the well being of all of you," he said and added "this is called...Opportunity in disaster once again? #Ukraine #UkraineConflict."
Congress MP Vivek Tankha asked that when the US could evacuate its citizens on time, why did India fail to do so despite repeated warnings.
"Very poor strategy planning. With thousands trapped in the conflict zone, we have failed our people. Imagine their & families plight," he said.
The situation in Ukraine deteriorated after President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine, triggering serious concerns over the possibility of a full-scale military confrontation between the two countries.
Former minister of state for external affairs and Congress leader Tharoor said he is receiving a number of desperate messages from families of students stranded in Ukraine and needing evacuation.
"Mr Prime Minister, this is not the time for election strategy but for diplomatic strategy. Thousands of our children who have gone to study in Ukraine are stuck there, understand the priority!" he said in a tweet in Hindi.
Another Congress leader and former Union minister Manish Tewari tweeted, "India should unequivocally condemn Russian invasion of Ukraine in unambiguous terms. There comes a time when you need to tell 'friends' they can't indulge in Regime change. India's conduct of international relations should be characterised by calling a spade a spade."
"Let us not make the same mistake qua Russia again when we did with the erstwhile Soviet Union when we did not condemn Soviet Invasion of Hungary -1956, Czechoslovakia -1968, Afghanistan-1979," Tewari said.
The principle being in the 21st century can you change the status quo by force, he added.
Tharoor also said however much one appreciates Moscow's legitimate security concerns, resorting to war is impossible to accept or justify, and India should demand that Russians "stop".
"So Russia is conducting a 'regime change' operation. How long can India, which had consistently opposed such interventions, stay silent?", Tharoor tweeted.
Tharoor also slammed Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan over his visit to Russia amid the developments and cited the example of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who in 1979 as the then foreign minister had cut short his visit to China when Beijing attacked Vietnam.
"If @imrankhanPTI has any self-respect, he will do what Vajpayee Sahib did when China attacked Vietnam during his 1979 visit: he should cancel his trip immediately & go home. Otherwise, he is complicit in the invasion," Tharoor said.
Another former Union minister and Congress leader Milind Deora said India should learn the right lessons from the Russia-Ukraine conflict and diversify relationships and not depend on allies that are allies only on paper.
"I hope Taiwan is listening," he added.
Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi posted a video on Twitter purportedly of some Indians in Ukraine talking about their problems with the caption "This is what I have been raising with MEA and Civil Aviation Ministry. Now our Indians are stranded and are feeling helpless."
Describing the situation in Ukraine as "highly uncertain", the India embassy in its advisory on Thursday said,"please maintain calm and remain safe wherever you are, be it in your homes, hostels, accommodations or in transit... All those who are travelling to Kyiv, including those travelling from western parts of Kyiv, are advised to return to their respective cities. temporarily, especially towards safer places along the western bordering countries."
Russian troops launched their anticipated attack on Ukraine on Thursday, as Putin cast aside international condemnation and sanctions and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere would lead to consequences they had "never seen".