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10 Jul, 2023 12:28

Türkiye turning into ‘unfriendly country’ – Russian senator

The release of Azov leaders and support for Ukraine’s NATO bid have compromised Ankara’s neutrality, Viktor Bondarev has said
Türkiye turning into ‘unfriendly country’ – Russian senator

Türkiye’s latest statements and actions show that it is sliding towards the group of nations that Moscow considers unfriendly, Russian Senator Viktor Bondarev has said.

A member of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, and chair of the body's defense and security committee, Bondarev also suggested in comments to the TASS news agency on Monday that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is caving to pressure from the West.

The senator cited Ankara’s stated support for Ukraine’s bid to join NATO and the subsequent decision to release from custody five commanders of the notorious Azov regiment as moves that have undermined Turkish neutrality.

“Certainly, national security and national interest have the priority. But even under serious Western pressure one should preserve their face, as Hungarian leader Viktor Orban demonstrated repeatedly,” the senator said.

Erdogan said that Ukraine “deserves” to join NATO last Friday, as he was meeting with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky in Ankara. On the next day, Zelensky announced that he was bringing back from his trip five leaders of the Azov regiment, which Moscow considers a terrorist organization.

The men were captured by Russia in the Donbass city of Mariupol last year and handed over to Türkiye in a prisoner swap with Ukraine, which Ankara mediated. While rank-and-file Azov troops were transferred to their home nation, five senior officers were kept on Turkish soil. The agreement was that Ankara would host them until the conflict in Ukraine is over.

Bondarev accused the Turkish government of stabbing Russia in the back. He described the handover of Azov commanders as one in a series of “stupid and impulsive decisions” by Erdogan. The Turkish president may have been partially reacting to the deterioration of the Black Sea grain deal, the senator said.

The scheme allows Kiev to export grain by sea under the aegis of Türkiye and the UN. Moscow has complained that the UN never delivered on its promise to relieve Western sanctions on Russian grain exports, which was part of the terms. The deal will expire next Monday, unless Moscow agrees to extend it.