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Turkish citizens trapped in Ukraine mosque

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says he hopes progress can be made on evacuating Turks stuck in a mosque in the southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

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

Ukraine’s foreign ministry said on Saturday that Russian forces had shelled the Sultan Suleiman mosque, where more than 80 adults and children, including Turks, have taken refuge. Moscow has denied targeting civilian areas in what it calls a special military operation in Ukraine.

Cavusoglu said there was no damage to the mosque and that buses were waiting to evacuate the Turks, although contact could not currently be established due to clashes in the area.

He said he had sought help from his Russian counterpart, Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on the issue.

“In my phone call with Mr Lavrov, I asked him for support in evacuating these citizens of ours in Mariupol,” Cavusoglu said. He added Turkey had shared information with Russia about its citizens stuck in areas Russian forces had entered.

“For some days, we have been sending our buses there, but because clashes continue in the city the buses cannot enter,” he said, speaking at a news conference in Antalya.

“The problem here is that since cell phones cannot be used and because clashes continue, even if we wait there, how will we get our citizens back? … But we expect to make some headway on this today.”

Ukraine’s embassy in Ankara said on Friday 86 Turks were sheltering in the mosque and that 34 of them were children.

Cavusoglu said 14,480 Turkish citizens have so far been evacuated from Ukraine.

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