Turkey asks Russia to help evacuate Turkish citizens stranded in Mariupol

Mar 13, 2022: According to a report by AFP, Turkey has asked Russia to help evacuate Turkish citizens stranded in the besieged city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine, Ankara’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters.

“As we have spoken with him (Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov), we asked for this support for the evacuation of our citizens from Mariupol,” Cavusoglu said.

Ukraine said on Saturday that Russian forces had surrounded and fired on the city’s mosque – where about 80 civilians, including several Turkish citizens – had taken refuge. Cavusoglu’s comments are the first official response from Ankara to the incident. The foreign minister said the imam of the mosque had not confirmed the reports. He said rockets and missiles had been fired at the area.

The port of Mariupol in particular has been under siege for several days and is facing what Ukraine calls a “humanitarian catastrophe” in which more than 1,500 civilians have been killed in 12 days.

“We support the territorial integrity of Ukraine, but we have to work with both actors for humanitarian purposes,” Cavusoglu said.

A local official from the Turkish community denied on Saturday that the mosque had been targeted by Russians. Cavusoglu said Turkish authorities had lost contact with Turkish citizens in Mariupol “after the entire infrastructure was destroyed”.

Ankara had shared information with Russia and “our buses were sent to the region, but the buses are not able to go inside the city”, the minister continued.

This is the first time that Ankara has confirmed that Turkish citizens were present in the mosque, but it did not give a number.

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