Turkey has offered a sea evacuation for wounded Ukrainian fighters, says Erdogan adviser

Turkey has offered a sea evacuation for wounded Ukrainian fighters, says Erdogan adviser

Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman and chief foreign policy adviser to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Istanbul, Turkey May 14, 2022. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

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ISTANBUL, May 14 (Reuters) – NATO member Turkey has proposed to conduct a sea evacuation of wounded militants holed up at a steel plant in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said on Saturday.

Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters in an interview that he personally discussed the proposal with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv two weeks ago and that it remains “on the table” even though Moscow has not agreed to it.

Under the plan, people evacuated from the giant Azovstal Steel Plant would be taken by land to the port of Berdyansk, which like Mariupol sits on the Azov Sea, and a Turkish ship would take them across the Black Sea to Istanbul, he said.

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“If that’s the case, we’re happy to do it. We are ready. In fact, our ship is ready to bring the injured soldiers and other civilians to Turkey,” said Kalin, who is also Erdogan’s top foreign policy adviser.

Ukraine and Russia did not immediately comment on the possibility of evacuation by sea.

After weeks of Russian siege and bombardment, Mariupol is in Russian hands, but hundreds of Ukrainian fighters are holding out the steelworks under heavy fire.

A number of civilians taking refuge at the factory were evacuated this month with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations. Turkey’s proposal included the evacuation of the civilians still living there.

COMPLEX CONVERSATIONS

Zelenskyi said complex talks were underway to evacuate large numbers of wounded soldiers from the steel mill in exchange for the release of Russian prisoners of war. Continue reading

Russia, which initially said the militants should surrender, has said little publicly about the talks.

Kalin said the Russian position “changes from day to day”.

“They look at the security situation on the ground and other dynamics, their negotiations, their own internal coordination,” he said. “So sometimes it’s difficult to get a firm answer (or commitment) from both sides.”

Turkey borders Russia and Ukraine, has good relations with both and has sought to facilitate peace talks. She opposed the Russian invasion and has been supplying Kyiv with armed drones, although she also opposes Western sanctions against Moscow. Continue reading

Kalin said the evacuation of the Navy from Berdyansk was one of several proposals to reach a ceasefire and carry out an evacuation.

“It can happen, yes. I think it can happen,” he said.

“The boat is still in Istanbul. It is ready to go, but we are awaiting final approval from the Russian and Ukrainian sides so that it can go to Berdyansk and take the injured soldiers to Turkey.”

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Writing from Jonathan Spicer, Editor of Timothy Heritage

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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