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Ukraine: Turkey offers to evacuate wounded soldiers from Azovstal factory

NATO member Turkey proposed carrying out a sea evacuation of wounded fighters holed up in steelworks in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said on Saturday. Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters in an interview that he had personally discussed the proposal with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv two weeks ago and that it remains “on the table.” However, Moscow has not agreed to it.

The plan would see people evacuated from the Azovstal steel plan and taken by land to the port Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov. From there, a Turkish vessel would take them across the Black Sea to Istanbul, he said. “If it can be done that way, we are happy to do it. We are ready. In fact, our ship is ready to go and bring the injured soldiers and other civilians to Turkey,” said Kalin, who is also Erdogan’s top foreign policy adviser, according to Reuters.

Ukraine and Russia did not immediately comment on the possibility of an evacuation by sea. Mariupol is in Russian hands after weeks of siege and bombardment, but hundreds of Ukrainian fighters are holding out under heavy fire at the steelworks. Several civilians who were sheltering in the plant were evacuated this month with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations. Turkey’s proposal included evacuating the civilians who were still there.

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