An Indian student was killed on Tuesday in shelling in Ukraine, New Delhi said, as it urged Moscow and Kyiv to secure safe passage for around 12,000 of its stranded nationals. “With profound sorrow we confirm that an Indian student lost his life in shelling in Kharkiv this morning,” Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on Twitter. He added that the foreign secretary – the ministry’s top civil servant – was “calling in the Russian and Ukrainian ambassadors to reiterate our demand for urgent safe passage for Indian nationals who are still in Kharkiv and cities in other conflict zones”. Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, has been a target for Russian forces since President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of the eastern European country last week. On Tuesday, the central square of the city near the Russian border was shelled by advancing forces who hit the building of the local administration, regional governor Oleg Sinegubov said. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the shelling as a “war crime”, adding in a video statement: “This is state terrorism on the part of Russia.” But Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla did not criticise Russia. Naming the student as Naveen Shekharappa Gyanagoudar, he told reporters: “From what we understand from his friends, he had come out to buy some groceries, he was at a shop in a line when he was hit, I don’t know how. Indian students ‘held up’ at border after New Delhi abstains from UN vote “The circumstances are not absolutely clear,” he added. “It is a conflict zone and it’s a very unfortunate situation.” In the southern Indian state of Karnataka, the student’s father pleaded to Indian authorities and representatives in Ukraine: “Bring back my son’s dead body.” Before Russia’s invasion, there were around 20,000 Indians in Ukraine. Around 8,000 have since managed to leave the country, of whom some 1,400 have been flown back to India, according to officials. According to Indian media, some Indian students are being prevented from crossing into neighbouring countries, with border guards reportedly refusing to let them pass and demanding money. Aruj Raj, a student in Kharkiv, told the Hindustan Times that he had been in a hostel bunker with 400 other Indian students since Thursday. “There is so much bombing happening outside,” he said. “We can see street fighting through our windows. “The city is still under curfew. It is impossible for us to step outside. We hardly have anything left to eat or drink.” New Delhi has long walked a tightrope in its relations with Moscow and the West, while getting most of its arms from Russia. Last week it abstained in a vote on the UN Security Council resolution deploring Russia’s “aggression”. Meanwhile, Israelis, Iranians and Tunisians on Tuesday landed back in their home countries to the tearful relief of relatives, as evacuations of nationals caught up in the Russian invasion of Ukraine gathered pace. The evacuees had all been forced to make harrowing escapes by land through the war zone to board repatriation flights in neighbouring countries, after Ukraine closed its airspace to civilian traffic at the start of the invasion last week. One of the first repatriation flights bringing home Israeli evacuees landed at Ben Gurion airport from Romania. Badr Tawil, 23, a student who fled Ukraine’s under-fire second city Kharkiv, said he had escaped chaos. “We just woke up once and we heard the sounds around us. Bombs everywhere. So we decided to leave,” he said. ‘We left to escape war’: Arab students in Ukraine face new nightmare Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Monday his office had helped 4,000 Israelis leave Ukraine since Russia invaded. “We will do everything to not leave any Israeli behind, or any Jew behind,” he told journalists. Many of the Israelis repatriated on Tuesday were members of the Arab minority, who make up 20 per cent of the Jewish state’s population. A student, who identified himself only as Hussein, described a terrifying escape. “For four days, we have been sleeping in staircases and train stations,” he said. “We had a really difficult time without food. I was in Ukraine in Kharkiv. It is the last year of my studies, but now I left everything to return.” Uda Abu Saied, whose son Muhammad returned on the flight, said she had been terrified for his safety. “I wasn’t sure if my son would return or not. He was in the most dangerous place,” she said. “They went on their own with the bus for 24 hours, and I imagined all kinds of scenarios like a missile hitting and killing them, or maybe that they would get captured.” The foreign ministry said on Monday that one Israeli had been killed in Ukraine, when the convoy he was travelling in came under fire as he tried to reach neighbouring Moldova. The foreign ministry said authorities had contacted the man’s wife, who was in Ukraine with their children. Ukraine invasion: UN seeks US$1.7 billion for urgent humanitarian aid Iran’s state media said a first repatriation flight carrying 100 students and other nationals fleeing Ukraine landed in Tehran from Poland at around 7am local time. They included at least one family with a child, television footage from the arrivals hall showed. In Tunis, a group of 106 Tunisian students and a baby arrived on a special repatriation flight by military aircraft from the Romanian capital Bucharest. In emotional scenes, they were welcomed by relatives. Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi, who was at the airport, said a further 480 Tunisian students would be repatriated in the coming days via Romania or Poland. “We went through a nightmare, through a war,” said engineering student Aymen Badri. More than 10,000 Arab students attend university in Ukraine, drawn to the former Soviet republic by its low cost of living. Other Arab governments are also planning repatriation flights. Morocco, which has around 8,000 students enrolled in Ukrainian universities, said it was organising special flights from Bucharest, Budapest and Warsaw on both Wednesday and Thursday. Evacuees will be charged 750 dirhams (US$78) per head for the one-way trip to Casablanca. Gulf exporters stay neutral as Europe fears for Russian gas supplies The Palestinian foreign ministry said it was scrambling to assist some 2,600 nationals trapped in Ukraine, hundreds of them students. The Jordanian foreign ministry said 415 nationals had made it out of Ukraine into neighbouring countries over the past few days. More than 660,000 people have fled Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion last week, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday. That includes hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, mostly women and children, as well as third country nationals.