Turkey to evacuate citizens in Mariupol mosque: FM
Turkish citizens who took shelter in a mosque in Ukraine’s besieged city Mariupol will be evacuated, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters on March 13.
Turkey has asked Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for assistance evacuating the Turkish citizens in Mariupol, Çavuşoğlu noted.
“Yesterday, we called (Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov) and asked him for his help evacuating our citizens,” he said.
A group of Turkish citizens and their relatives who have taken shelter in a mosque in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol want to be evacuated as clashes near.
Speaking to daily Hürriyet over the phone about the situation, İsmail Hacıoğlu, the head of the Suleiman Mosque Association in Mariupol, said there are 86 people in the city, which is besieged by Russia and witnessing constant shelling, waiting to be evacuated by Turkey.
“Around 30 of these people are in the mosque, while others are waiting at home,” Hacıoğlu said. “They are not all Turkish citizens; the group includes 34 children and wives and mothers-in-law of Turkish citizens.”
Hacıoğlu refuted earlier reports that the mosque of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent was hit during the shelling of the city.
“An explosion occurred around 700 meters away from the mosque, but it was not directly hit,” he said, adding that clashes between the Ukrainian and Russian forces continue around 2 kilometers away from the facility.
Hacıoğlu said his association had already tried four times to evacuate Turks by forming a convoy, “but Russians did not let us through” roadblocks.
“We will try for the fifth time,” he said.
Mariupol is facing what Ukraine says is a “humanitarian catastrophe,” with more than 1,500 civilians killed over 12 days.
A humanitarian convoy loaded with 90 tons of food and medicine left the town of Zaporizhzhia for Mariupol on March 12, according to local officials, with hopes that it will be able to evacuate civilians on the way back.
Orthodox clergy volunteered to accompany the convoy, they said, after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of targeting previous similar efforts.