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Turkey expects to soon evacuate citizens from besieged Mariupol, FM says

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Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said, after a phone call with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, that he expects to evacuate Turkish citizens from Ukraine’s southern port city of Mariupol on Tuesday or Wednesday, local media reported.

“The conditions for the evacuation of our citizens from Mariupol are emerging. We expect good news today or tomorrow,” the minister told reporters on Tuesday in Ankara.

“We are continuing our negotiations for a permanent ceasefire in Ukraine,” he said, adding that Turkish officials had a meeting with Ukrainian negotiators on Tuesday.

According to Çavuşoğlu, 14,800 Turkish citizens have been evacuated from Ukraine so far since the start of Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24.

The minister further said there were currently 300 or 350 Turks in Ukraine and that nearly 100 of them were in Mariupol.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry said on Saturday that Russian forces had shelled the Sultan Suleiman mosque in Mariupol, where more than 80 adults and children, including Turks, have taken refuge.

Çavuşoğlu said on Sunday there was no damage to the mosque and that buses were waiting to evacuate the Turks, although contact couldn’t be established due to clashes in the area.

According to a Reuters report, earlier on Tuesday, defense ministry sources said Ankara was awaiting approval from Russian authorities for the Mariupol evacuation, pending a security evaluation.

Reuters cited the sources as saying that landmines in the area had been cleared and that work was continuing to open humanitarian corridors and for buses to enter the city.

Ukraine has accused Russia of failing to observe ceasefires to allow people to leave Mariupol, where a blockade has left hundreds of thousands trapped, while Russia blames Ukraine for the failure to evacuate people.

Moscow has denied targeting civilian areas in what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

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