Turkey plans to evacuate Ukrainian fighters, civilians from steelworks

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Turkey plans to evacuate Ukrainian fighters, civilians from steelworks

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

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

Under the Turkish scheme, wounded Ukrainian fighters and civilians would be taken by land to the Ukrainian port of Berdyansk, controlled by Russian forces, and then transported to Istanbul. Kalin didn't explain why the land transfer was necessary, because Mariupol has a large port of its own.

If it can be done that way, we are happy to do it. Kalin said that the plan might still materialize, because our ship is ready to go and bring the injured soldiers and other civilians to Turkey. It may happen, yes. Both Russia and Ukraine said the evacuation of civilians from the sprawling industrial facility was complete last week. There are currently only fighters from the Neo-Nazi Azov regiment and some units of the Ukrainian military inside the plant.

Ukraine splintered up in the steelworks and has urged foreign leaders, including Turkey's President Erdogan, to help them get out. They vowed to continue fighting, refusing to surrender to forces of Russia and the Donetsk People's Republic, calling such an outcome a gift for the enemy Russia attacked Ukraine in late February after Kiev 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 Lugansk. The German and French protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

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