Eighty Indonesians, three foreign spouses return home from Ukraine

The passengers landed at Indonesia's main Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten, on March 3, 2022. PHOTO: INDONESIA’S MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

JAKARTA - Eighty Indonesian citizens and three foreign spouses returned to Indonesia on Thursday (March 3) from strife-torn Ukraine.

A Garuda Indonesia aircraft carrying them landed at the country's main Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten, just after 5pm following a 17-hour flight from the Romanian capital, Bucharest, with a stopover in Medina, Saudi Arabia.

Indonesian security officers accompanied the passengers from Bucharest. They had to undergo health protocols upon arrival.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi was on hand at the airport to greet the returning Indonesians. She told them: "Welcome back to the homeland and have a great time with your families."

She noted that another 14 evacuees were still in Bucharest due to health issues. Twelve had tested positive for Covid-19, and the remaining two were taking care of their children who had contracted the disease.

"If their health conditions allow, they will be sent back on a commercial flight," Ms Retno said.

At least 138 Indonesians, comprising migrant workers in the manufacturing and hospitality industry, students and those married to locals, resided in Ukraine, a Foreign Ministry official said in Jakarta last week. Most lived in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and in the south-western port city of Odessa. A small number resided in other cities.

As at Tuesday, 99 Indonesians and five foreign spouses had been evacuated to Bucharest and Rzeszow in Poland. Seven of them, including two foreign spouses, are still in Rzeszow.

Ms Retno said four Indonesians had managed to leave the north-eastern city of Kharkiv, where a major Russian assault is under way. They arrived safely in Lviv, in western Ukraine, on Thursday.

"The journey they undertook was very tough as they had to pass a few checkpoints amid a curfew imposed there," she said. She added that another Indonesian had arrived in Lviv to join the group and would head towards Rzeszow. They are expected to return home via Warsaw, the Polish capital.

"The government will continue to work to evacuate nine Indonesian citizens who are still in Chernihiv," Ms Retno said, referring to another northern Ukrainian city.

Some Indonesians, who are married to Ukrainians, have opted to stay behind to be with their families.

Indonesia is among a number of countries, including India, scrambling to evacuate their citizens from Ukraine following the Russian invasion last week.

More than a million civilians have so far fled Ukraine, according to the United Nations, with many crossing into neighbouring countries in the west, including Poland and Romania.

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On Feb 24, Indonesia condemned the Russian assault on Ukraine, saying it was "unacceptable" and would "put the people's lives in grave danger and threaten regional as well as global peace and stability".

Indonesia joined 140 United Nations member states in supporting a resolution at the UN General Assembly urging Russia to stop its aggression in Ukraine.

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