https://ahvalnews.com-Russia’s military operation against Ukraine has turned into a war and Turkey will now act accordingly in line with the Montreux Convention, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Sunday.
“Under these conditions, we will apply the Montreux agreement. Article 19 is pretty clear. In the beginning, it was a Russian attack and we evaluated it with experts, soldiers, and lawyers. Now it has turned into a war. This is not a military operation; it is officially a state of war,” Çavuşoğlu told CNN Türk on Sunday.
Çavuşoğlu’s statement is a significant shift in the rhetoric used by Turkish officials in referring to the ongoing clashes between its Black Sea neighbours. It is also a possible sign that Turkey may be ready to take stronger action against Russia in support of Ukraine.
On Saturday, a phone call took place between Ukraine’s embattled President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in which Zelenskiy thanked Erdoğan for his support in the ongoing war with Russia. Turkey has been an important military and political ally to Kyiv, but it has been reluctant to compromise an image of neutrality for fear of how Russia may respond.
After the call, Zelenskiy tweeted his thanks to Turkey for a “ban on the passage of Russian warships” to the Black Sea, but Turkish officials refuted that they had made such a decision.
Under the 1936 Montreux Convention, Turkey is in charge of regulating the passage of ships into and out of the Black Sea and has the power to close them to warships.
On Sunday morning, Zelenskiy had rejected Russia’s offer for negotiations in Belarus, and said peace talks could have taken place in Istanbul or “any other city” but Minsk.
“Warsaw, Bratislava, Budapest, Istanbul, Baku – we proposed all that to the Russian side,” the Associated Press cited Zelenskiy as saying on Sunday.
“Any other city would work for us, too, in a country from whose territory rockets are not being fired,” the Ukrainian president said.
Earlier in the day, a Russian delegation arrived in Homel, Belarus and Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said they were ready for talks, “now waiting for the Ukrainians”.
Zelenskiy later agreed to meet with the Russian delegation at the country’s border with Belarus.
The Ukrainian president announced on his Telegram channel that the delegations would meet without preconditions near the Pripyat River.
Sunday also saw Russian forces enter Ukraine’s Kharkiv as the fourth day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began.
Late on Saturday, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had reiterated the bloc’s resolve to “impose massive costs on Russia”.
“The European Union and its partners are working to cripple Putin’s ability to finance his war machine,” von der Leyen said as four Russian banks were removed from the SWIFT international payment system.
The banks in question make up 70 percent of Russia’s banking sector.
“We are engaging with European authorities to understand the details of the entities that will be subject to the new measures and we are preparing to comply upon legal instruction,” Reuters cited SWIFT as saying in a statement.
According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), at least 64 civilians have been killed since Russian troops entered Ukraine, while at least another 176 were injured. In four days, more than 160,000 people have been internally displaced and 116,000 forced to flee to neighbouring countries, Reuters cited the OCHA as saying.
The number of Ukrainians fleeing the country was later updated to 368,000.
(This story was updated with developments throughout.)
Russia makes nuclear move, White House condemns escalation
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian military to put its nuclear deterrence forces on high alert on Sunday, sparking condemnation from the United States.
“Senior officials of the leading Nato countries also allow aggressive statements against our country, therefore I order the minister of defence and the chief of the general staff [of the Russian armed forces] to transfer the deterrence forces of the Russian army to a special mode of combat duty,” Putin said.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the nuclear deterrence announcement was Putin “manufacturing threats that don’t exist in order to justify further aggression”.
“At no point has Russia been under threat from NATO, has Russia been under threat from Ukraine, this is all a pattern from President Putin,” Psaki said.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called Putin’s order “dangerous rhetoric” and “a behaviour that is irresponsible”.
EU announces further support for Ukraine, bans Russian media, aircraft
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Sunday evening that the bloc is to provide Ukraine with military assistance.
“For the first time ever, the European Union will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to a country that is under attack. This is a watershed moment,” von der Leyen said.
The EU chief also announced a ban on all Russian aircraft from entering EU airspace, “including the private jets of oligarchs”.
Russian media is also banned from the EU.
“The state-owned Russia Today and Sputnik as well as their subsidiaries will no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and to sow division in our Union,” she added.
Five more buses leave Ukraine to bring Turks back home
Five buses full of Turkish citizens have left Ukrainian territory and arrived in Romania, a businessman among them told Anadolu.
The buses left from Kyiv and entered Romania via the Siret border crossing in Suceava.
Some 20 Ukrainians including children were also allowed to board the buses to leave the country, and some of them wanted to continue to Turkey, Anadolu said.
Meanwhile, there are no updates from the more than 70 Turkish citizens stuck at the Polish border. The group told daily BirGün early on Sunday that their request for assistance from the Turkish embassy was left unanswered as they had reached the border by their own means.
Turkish cabinet to discuss Ukraine on Monday
Turkey’s ministers will convene under the lead of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday to discuss developments regarding Ukraine and the impact of the crisis on Turkey, daily BirGün reported.
Options to be assessed include Turkey’s mediation for Russia to end its military operations on Ukraine.
The cabinet will also discuss domestic developments including the economy.
Russia-Ukraine crisis could have been prevented, Turkey’s Altun says
Turkey has called for a diplomatic solution and for a reform at the United Nations, Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said in a series of tweets on Sunday.
“Our calls to reform the UN system have fallen on deaf ears and we have seen the dire consequences in this latest crisis. This war could have been prevented if our calls were heeded,” Altun said.
Turkey will continue to work for “a quick and peaceful resolution of the conflict”, Altun continued.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s chief adviser İbrahim Kalın repeated Erdoğan’s call for ceasefire negotiations.
Ukraine praises Turkish drones against Russian forces
The Ukrainian embassy in Turkey shared video footage of a drone strike on a Russian military convoy on Sunday, praising Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 drones for their prowess.
“Mashallah to Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs,” the embassy cited Ukraine’s general staff as saying.
In another tweet, the embassy said, “The 34 Turkish soldiers killed by Russian soldiers in Idlib two years ago have been avenged in Ukraine. There is divine justice!”
Russia had targeted the drone base of Baykar Co., the Turkish producer of the drones, in Donbass on Thursday, Russian news agency Interfax reported.
First Turks evacuated from Ukraine enter Turkey
The first group of Turkish citizens evacuated from Ukraine by land have entered Turkey from Bulgaria on Sunday, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
A total of six buses left Ukraine to travel through Romania and Bulgaria and arrive in the Turkish border province of Edirne. Transport was arranged by the Foreign Ministry, following protests against Turkish Airlines and private airline Pegasus more than doubling ticket prices.
But thousands of Turkish citizens were not evacuated before the start of the war, the opposition daily BirGün reported on Sunday.
Western nations urged their citizens to evacuate Ukraine prior to the expected invasion, but Turkey did not advise the same. Instead, it urged Turkish citizens to avoid travel to the eastern Donbas region before moving to evacuate its citizens after Russia launched its attack.
Several Turks interviewed by BirGün said that they were forced to flee towards Poland and other neighbouring countries by their own means. One Turkish citizen who reached the Polish border said he was not allowed to cross and that only families with children were permitted to pass without an inspection of their identification papers.
The resident said that the Turkish foreign ministry has not been responsive to his requests for assistance or forthcoming with information about when they can expect to cross the border.