Turkey offers sea evacuation for wounded fighters entrenched in Azovstal fabriek factory

NATO member Turkey has proposed carrying out a sea evacuation of wounded fighters holed up in a steel mill in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, President Recep 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 Kiev two weeks ago and that it remains “on the table”, although Moscow has not agreed to it.

Under the plan, people evacuated from the massive Azovstal steel mill would be taken by land to the port of Berdyansk, which, like Mariupol, is on the Sea of ​​Azov, and a Turkish ship would take them across the Black Sea to Istanbul, he said.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

“If it can be done that way, we’re happy to do it. We are done. In fact, our ship is ready to take the wounded 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 an evacuation by sea.

After weeks of Russian siege and bombing, Mariupol is in Russian hands, but hundreds of Ukrainian fighters hold out under heavy fire at the steel mill.

A number of civilians hiding in the factory were evacuated this month with help from the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations. Turkey’s proposal included the evacuation of the civilians who were still there.

Complex conversations

Zelensky has said complex talks are underway to evacuate a large number of wounded soldiers from the steel mill in exchange for the release of Russian prisoners of war.

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

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 hard to get a solid response [or] commitment from both sides.”

Turkey borders Russia and Ukraine, has good ties with both and has tried to facilitate peace talks. It objected to the Russian invasion and has supplied Kiev with armed drones, although it also opposes Western sanctions against Moscow.

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

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

“The boat is still in Istanbul. It is ready to sail, but we are waiting for the final approval from the Russian and Ukrainian sides to go to Berdyansk and bring those wounded soldiers to Turkey.”

Read more:

Refugees from Ukraine at risk of human trafficking: NGO

Relatives of detained Azovstal soldiers in Ukraine ask China for help

Russia expels 10 Romanian diplomats

Leave a Comment