Bangladesh's immediate priority following the launch of a Russian military operation against Ukraine on Thursday is the safety and evacuation of some 500 nationals, with the authorities activating a Poland-based evacuation route after the closure of Ukrainian airspace.
The foreign ministry said at least 250 of the stranded Bangladeshis have already contacted the Bangladesh embassy in Poland – the de facto foreign mission for Bangladeshis staying in Ukraine – seeking to leave the country immediately.
The ministry, however, said the Bangladesh nationals will have to cross the Ukraine-Poland border first on their own to avail of Dhaka's evacuation plan from Warsaw.
"With air flights suspended, it is difficult for us to cross the turbulent border now," Khaled Hasan Khan, a 60-year-old Bangladeshi national who has been in Kiev since 1984, told The Business Standard over phone Thursday.
While talking to TBS, Khaled was in a grocery shop buying daily essentials in bulk. He said Thursday's Russian assault was just 30 kilometres away from his residence.
"I saw long queues at the superstores as people fear they will not be able to go out in the coming days," he said, adding the panic buying could lead to a cash crunch at ATM booths.
Khaled moved to Ukraine for higher education in 1984, and married a Bangladeshi student there. The couple obtained Ukrainian citizenship in 2005.
He said his family was staying home as recommended by Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky following Russia's military action. They are not considering leaving the country for now.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam told journalists in Dhaka on Thursday that the Bangladesh embassy in Poland has opened a WhatsApp group for swift communication with stranded Bangladeshis in Ukraine.
With the Ukraine invasion tensions rising, he said Dhaka had earlier talked with Warsaw seeking on-arrival visas for Bangladeshis from Kiev.
Shahriar Alam said the foreign ministry will approach Poland again on Thursday, holding out the assurance that the Bangladesh embassy in Poland will verify the identity of the incoming Bangladeshis.
The state minister said Dhaka will try to bring its citizens from Poland before their 15-day on-arrival Polish visas expire. The Bangladesh nationals in Warsaw will be accommodated in multiple locations at Bangladesh's cost, and the embassy is working on that.
Shahriar Alam said there had been no casualty reports of any Bangladeshi nationals in Ukraine until Thursday noon.
The foreign ministry requested the stranded nationals to contact Anirban Niyogi, an embassy staff, at the phone number +48572094381 at the Bangladesh embassy in Warsaw for assistance.