Indian student killed in Ukraine; ‘He caught in shelling while out for grocery’- Naveen’s friends about his last moments

From the very first beginning of the declaration of military operation in Ukraine by Russia, all the residents in Ukraine, especially those residing in Kyiv and Kharkiv city were started their evacuation. Many were stranded in the region when almost everyone was evacuated. However, things were not the same for everyone. 

February 28 has been seen as another day of deep sorrow for India when an Indian student was killed in shelling in the Ukraine conflict. Naveen Shekaragouda, the deceased student, was out to buy groceries when he met the tragic end. This is the first reported death of an Indian student amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Naveen SG, a 21-year-old fourth-year medical student from Karnataka, stepped out of the bunker, to buy groceries and became the first Indian causality in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We were in a bunker for the past six days. We had been holed up for the past six days. When Naveen stepped out of the bunker to get food, we all were sleeping. The curfew was in action and we were unable to find a solution to fill our stomachs. It was Naveen who decided to go out and get food for all of us,” Indian Express quoted as one of Naveen’s friends Vaishyar told.

“When Naveen was out for grocery, he messaged us via phone to ask and send money through the account as there was a shortage. It was around 8’o clock in the morning. After that one of us called his phone at 8.10 am, but a Ukrainian answered the call and said he was no more,” Vaishyar further said.

Srikanth, one of the other friends of Naveen also recalled their last days with the first Indian casualty in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. “When I asked Naveen about the situation outside the bunker, he said it was worse. When he asked me to send money in order to collect the groceries needed for survival, I sent him a total of Rs.2000 and asked him to come back quickly. He also replied that he will rush back but I never knew that it was his last word to me. 

Srikanth further said that Naveen did not attend the call after 10 minutes, instead, the ringing phone was answered by a Ukrainian woman in a whispering tone. “ When we came to know about the situation and death of our friend, the situation has been marked by us a horrible moment. 

“He said the situation was really bad but he was safe. On February 28 morning, he called and spoke to his mother. After the war broke out, he had been calling 4-5 times every day. We never thought his life was in danger,” Vaishyar said. He “shared a special bond with Naveen” whom he described as “kind”, said all the students in Kharkiv were “shattered on hearing the news but were not allowed to go to the market to see what had happened as the explosions and firing continued”.

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“The embassy has given up on students living in Kharkiv, saying they cannot provide any kind of transportation and will only help if we reach the Hungary or Romania borders,” he said.

“We were a group of nine roommates. Of the nine, five already left the bunker on the previous day and moved towards the western border of Ukraine. Four of us, including Naveen, did not leave the bunker as we had hoped that Indian authorities could help us.” 

Naveen belonged to Chalageri village in Haveri district, about 300 km from Bengaluru. He is survived by his father Shekharappa Gyanagoudar, a retired private firm employee, mother Vijayalakshmi, and elder brother Harsha who is pursuing a Ph.D.