Turkey offers evacuation of Ukrainian soldiers from port steelworks, Russia refuses – Middle East Monitor

Turkey has offered to evacuate wounded Ukrainian soldiers stranded in the southern port city of Mariupol, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman has confirmed.

In an interview with Reuters news agency, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin confirmed that he himself had discussed the plan to evacuate wounded Ukrainian soldiers from Mariupol with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv. two weeks ago.

Hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol, which is now under Russian control after weeks of siege and shelling, continue to resist the Russian advance by holding their ground in the city’s Azovstal steelworks.

The Turkish proposal is to evacuate the soldiers from the steelworks, take them overland to the other nearby port of Berdyansk and place them on a Turkish ship which would ferry them across the Black Sea to Istanbul. There, Ankara reportedly promised that the soldiers would stay until the end of the war.

“If it can be done that way, we’re happy to do it. We’re ready,” Kalin said. “In fact, our ship is ready to leave and take the wounded soldiers and other civilians to Turkey.”

READ: Turkiye says no warship has crossed Bosphorus since Ukraine war

The main obstacle to this plan is Russia’s refusal to go ahead. However, this position could change as the Russian position “changes from day to day”, Kalin said. “They look at the security situation on the ground and other dynamics, their negotiations, their own internal coordination. So sometimes it’s hard to get a firm response. [or] commitment on both sides.”

The presidential spokesman reiterated that “the boat is still in Istanbul. It is ready to sail but we are waiting for the final authorization from the Russian and Ukrainian sides for it to go to Berdyansk and bring these wounded soldiers back to Turkey”.

Throughout the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing conflict, Turkey has positioned itself as a mediator between Kyiv and Moscow, facilitating negotiations and bringing them almost to the path of a multi-party peace process. occasions. Ankara’s offer to rescue injured Ukrainian soldiers from the steel mill is seen as its latest attempt at mediation.

The proposal also comes amid calls by many stranded soldiers for the international community to provide a lifesaving solution, with some calling on Turkey for help while others are appealing to countries like Israel.

READ: Turkey’s balancing act between Russia and Ukraine

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