Ukraine has asked Turkey to close Black Sea waterways to Russia: ambassador

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Vasyl Bodnar, Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey, on Thursday said Ukraine has asked Turkey to close the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits to Russian ships and wants sanctions imposed on Moscow, after Russia launched air and ground assaults on its neighbor, Reuters reported.

“We are calling for the airspace, Bosporus and Dardanelles straits to be closed. We have conveyed our demand to the Turkish side. At the same time, we want sanctions imposed on Russia,” Bodnar told a news conference in Ankara.

Ankara has control over the straits and can limit warship passages if it is threatened or during wartime under the 1936 Montreux Convention.

Turkey, a NATO member that shares a maritime Black Sea border with Ukraine and Russia, opposes sanctions but has called Russian steps against Ukraine unacceptable.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had amassed over 100,000 Russian troops around Ukraine in recent months but denied he had any intention of invading.

Putin on Thursday announced a military intervention in Ukraine, just days after recognizing two separatist-held enclaves in the eastern part of the country. The recognition drew international condemnation and announcements of tougher sanctions on Moscow.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said explosions were reported in several Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv, and tanks reportedly crossed the border from Belarus into Ukraine early Thursday, adding that Russia was targeting key areas in cities with weapons and missiles.

Meanwhile, Turkey on Thursday urged its citizens in Ukraine to stay home amid the Russian intervention in Ukraine.

“Ukrainian airspace is still closed. At the current stage, we ask that you stay at home or in a safe place and avoid travel,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry added that necessary support and guidance will be provided for those who want to leave the country.

Bilal Ekşi, CEO of Turkish Airlines (THY), Turkey’s flag carrier, announced on social media early on Thursday that all of their flights to Ukraine today had been canceled due to the closure of Ukrainian airspace. Turkey’s Pegasus Airlines also made a similar announcement on Twitter.

“#Russian Federation started a war against #Ukraine. Peaceful Ukrainian cities are being bombed,” the Ukrainian Embassy in Turkey said in a tweet on Thursday, calling on “Turkey and the friendly Turkish people” to support them at this difficult time.

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