‘PM Modi spoke to…’: Rajnath Singh says Russia-Ukraine war ‘stopped for 4.5 hrs’

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh claimed on Monday that following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s phone call to Russian and Ukrainian presidents, the war was briefly paused to facilitate the evacuation of stranded Indian students studying in Ukraine.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, defence minister Rajnath Singh during the launch of BJP’s Sankalp Patra for Lok Sabha Elections 2024 at BJP HQ, in New Delhi, India, on Sunday, April 14, 2024. (Photo by Ajay Aggarwal/ Hindustan Times)(Hindustan Times)

In 2022, India conducted Operation Ganga to rescue stranded students. Between the last week of February to early March, thousands of students returned from Ukraine through neighbouring countries such as Romania, Hungary, Poland, Moldova and Slovakia.

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Addressing an election rally in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua, defence minister Singh said: “…There is a war going on between Russia and Ukraine. Many Indian students were studying there. Missiles were being fired from Russia as well as Ukraine and a large number of people were being killed… Our Prime Minister spoke to the Presidents of Russia, Ukraine and America.”

Singh said that this helped India rescue its citizens as the war was briefly halted to allow evacuation.

“The war was stopped for 4.5 hours and 22,500 of our students came to India from Ukraine,” the defence minister added.

BJP’s repeats claim to woo voters; Opposition terms it propaganda

Bharatiya Janata Party BJP leaders have consistently highlighted this rescue mission in their poll campaigns to rally support, while the opposition dismisses it as mere propaganda.

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Responding to one such social media campaign, Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi termed the claim that Prime Minister Modi “stopped war” as ‘Papa of Propaganda’.

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What is the government’s official stand?

The ministry of external affairs has denied the claim at a regular press briefing. Arindam Bagchi, then MEA spokesperson, said, “We got specific inputs that this is a route that is available… we conveyed that to our citizens, and I am happy that many could make it.”

“Extrapolating that to say that somebody is holding off bombing or this is something we were coordinating is absolutely inaccurate.”

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