New Delhi, Feb 23  With tears in their eyes, parents, friends and family members of 256 Indian students, who are to land here from war-prone Ukraine in a special Air India flight, are awaiting their return at the IGI airport late on Tuesday night.

In view of the deteriorating situation in Ukraine with Russian forces at its doorstep, the government had advised the students and other Indian nationals stranded in the east European country, especially those in capital Kyiv, to return if possible.

Earlier in the morning, Air India had sent the special flight to bring back those willing to return.

Ukraine has about 20,000 Indian students. The first plane load is expected to reach by midnight, which has prompted large crowds of people awaiting their dear ones outside the airport.

Ramesh Sahni from Kurukshetra in Haryana is awaiting the return of his daughter Riya, a first year MBBS student at Kharkiev National Medical University, situated at a place barely 25 km from the Ukraine-Russia border.

Flight ticket at Rs 61,000 was a major burden but otherwise there were no problems, he said.

Rajesh Rana from Patiala said he could breath easy only after knowing that his daughter, Harshita, has boarded the plane. She too is a medical student.

Air India had announced to run three special flights to Ukraine. The next two flights are scheduled on February 24 and 26.

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