Turkey has begun to evacuate some 200 Turkish citizens stranded at Turkey’s embassy in Kyiv amid escalating fighting between Russian troops and the Ukrainian army.
The Turkish citizens who were sheltering at the embassy in Kyiv were taken to buses and they are en route to Romania, Turkey’s pro-government A-Haber television reported.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that some 2,500 Turkish citizens have requested evacuation so far and that evacuation efforts will accelerate tomorrow. He added that some 5,000 of the nearly 20,000 Turkish citizens in Ukraine have already left the country.
Earlier today, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Turkish diplomats in Ukraine have been taking necessary steps to evacuate the citizens by road through safe routes as the Ukrainian air space is closed.
Most of the Turkish citizens stranded in Ukraine are college students studying in the country. Following the Russian assault, the Turkish Foreign Ministry advised its citizens to shelter in place. The ministry also shared several helplines, urging them to reach out for evacuation arrangements.
“There are still numerous people in here who haven’t been contacted by the consulate. This causes panic and alarm among the people,” a college student in Kyiv told Turkey’s daily Birgun. “We demand an immediate evacuation.”
The Turkish opposition has also slammed the government for failing to warn and evacuate Turkish citizens from Ukraine in a timely manner.
Republican People's Party (CHP) lawmaker Utku Cakirozer said that Turkey’s failure to issue timely warnings for its citizens to ensure their safe evacuation from Ukraine has exposed how the government was caught off guard by the Russian invasion.
“Almost all countries have evacuated their citizens from Ukraine,” Cakirozer told Turkey's Halk TV television. “Turkey was the last country to issue a warning. And that warning was only about urging the citizens to be cautious about traveling to eastern Ukraine,” he added.
Several Western capitals including Washington, London and Oslo advised their citizens to leave Ukraine before the Russian invasion amid escalating tensions between Moscow and NATO. Ankara, meanwhile, issued two warnings on Feb. 12 and 22 urging its citizens to stay away from eastern Ukraine.