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8,454 Turks evacuated from Ukraine: Turkish FM

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has announced that 8,454 Turkish citizens have been evacuated from Ukraine thus far, the TR724 news website reported on Thursday.

Çavuşoğlu made the announcement on Twitter on Wednesday.

“Today, 404 citizens departed Ukraine, bringing the number of citizens evacuated to 8,454. In addition, the citizens who were evacuated from Ukraine have come to our country safe and sound today on Turkish Airlines (THY) planes flying from Bucharest and Warsaw. Welcome!” Çavuşoğlu tweeted.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had amassed over 100,000 Russian troops around Ukraine in recent months but denied he had any intention of invading, announced a military operation in Ukraine on Feb. 24, which quickly turned into a full-scale invasion. 

Turkish citizens fleeing the war in Ukraine and evacuated from Bucharest on THY planes included couples with newborn infants.

One such couple was Mutlu Özdemir and his Ukrainian wife Daria, who had married two years ago.

Daria had given birth to a son, Emilian, just three hours before the Russian attacks started. After the birth, the couple had moved to a shelter with their newborn.

It is estimated that there are 17,000 to 18,000 Turks living or working in Ukraine.

The Turkish government and Turkish Foreign Ministry have been criticized for failing to act in a timely manner to evacuate Turkish citizens living in Ukraine.

The Foreign Ministry had initially asked Turks in Ukraine to “stay at home or in a safe place and avoid travel,” adding that the necessary support and guidance would be provided for those who wanted to leave the country, but it turned out later that there was no well-thought-out plan for evacuation.

Feeling abandoned by their home country, many Turkish expatriates had asked for help from Turkish authorities when they participated in live broadcasts on Turkish TV channels.

Duygu Birgül, a Turkish student stranded in Kharkiv, took part in a live broadcast on the pro-government A Haber TV and said in tears that they were desperately waiting for evacuation.

“Today, only one bus departed from Kharkiv, carrying only 50 students. There are still 800 students to be evacuated. I may not be able to talk to you in half an hour,” she said, before she was hurriedly removed from the broadcast for her implied criticism.

THY, too, came under harsh criticism for announcing that ticket price for evacuees would be $220.

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