Turkish citizens trapped in Ukraine mosque
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says he expects progress can be made in releasing Turks trapped in a mosque in Mariupol, a port city in southern Ukraine.
Ukraine has accused Russia of violating ceasefires meant to allow civilians to flee Mariupol, a southern city where a siege has stranded hundreds of thousands. Russia accuses Ukraine of failing to remove citizens.
According to Ukraine’s foreign ministry, Russian soldiers shelled the Sultan Suleiman mosque, where more than 80 adults and children, including Turks, had sought refuge. Moscow has denied targeting civilian locations in Ukraine in what it termed a special military operation.
Cavusoglu stated that the mosque had not been damaged and that buses were waiting to evacuate the Turks, albeit communication could not be established due to skirmishes in the neighbourhood.
He stated that he had requested assistance from his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, on the matter.
“In my phone chat with Mr Lavrov, I appealed for his assistance in evacuating our citizens in Mariupol,” Cavusoglu added. He also stated that Turkey has exchanged information with Russia regarding its citizens who were trapped in places where Russian military had entered.
“We’ve been sending buses there for a few days, but because conflicts are still going on in the city, the buses can’t get in,” he said at a news conference in Antalya.
“The issue here is that, because cell phones are not working and conflicts continue, even if we wait there, how will we get our citizens back? … However, we intend to make some progress on this today.”
The Ukrainian embassy in Ankara reported on Friday that 86 Turks were taking refuge in the mosque, with 34 of them being youngsters.
According to Cavusoglu, 14,480 Turkish residents have been evacuated from Ukraine thus far.