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Turkey offers Ukraine help with evacuation

Russia has so far not agreed to the plan, says Turkish presidential spokesman

Turkey has offered to evacuate Ukrainian fighters and civilians from the besieged Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top adviser Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters on Saturday.

Under the Turkish program, wounded Ukrainian fighters and civilians would be transported from the factory overland to the Ukrainian port of Berdyansk, controlled by Russian forces, and then shipped to Istanbul. Kalin did not explain why the land transfer was necessary given that Mariupol has its own large port.

“If it can be done that way, we are happy to do it. We are ready. In fact, our ship is ready to leave and take the wounded soldiers and other civilians to Turkey,” he added. Kalin said, adding that the plan could still come to fruition. “It can happen, yes. I believe it can happen.

The boat is still in Istanbul. She is ready to sail but we are awaiting final permission from the Russian and Ukrainian sides for her to sail to Berdyansk and bring those wounded soldiers back to Turkey.

Last week, Russia and Ukraine declared the evacuation of civilians from the sprawling industrial facility complete. Currently, only fighters from the neo-Nazi Azov regiment and some Ukrainian army units remain inside the plant.

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Ukrainian forces in Azovstal vow to keep fighting

Ukrainian forces locked in the steelworks have repeatedly urged foreign leaders, including Turkish President Erdogan, to help them get out. However, they vowed to continue fighting, refusing to surrender to the forces of Russia and the Donetsk People’s Republic, calling such a result “a gift for the enemy”.

Russia attacked Ukraine in late February, after kyiv’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Luhansk . The protocols negotiated by Germany and France were designed to give breakaway regions a special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. kyiv insists the Russian offensive was unprovoked and has denied claims it planned to retake the two republics by force.


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