Turkey supports Ukraine's territorial integrity: Erdogan tells Zelenskyy

AP , Saturday 26 Mar 2022

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy by telephone, discussing the situation in Ukraine and negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv, Erdogan's office said late Friday.

Turkey-Ukraine
A man rides a bicycle as black smoke rises from a fuel storage of the Ukrainian army following a Russian attack, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, March 25, 2022. AP

Erdogan told his counterpart that he had raised Turkey's support for Ukrainian territorial integrity at a recent NATO summit, where he had relayed the diplomatic efforts made by Turkey in one-one-one meetings with other leaders, according to a statement from the Turkish presidency.

Ankara, which has close ties with both Russia and Ukraine, has positioned itself as a neutral party, seeking to facilitate negotiations between the warring sides.

Meanwhile, Russian forces in Ukraine appear to have shifted their focus from a ground offensive aimed at Kyiv to instead prioritizing what Moscow calls the liberation of the contested Donbas region, suggesting a new phase of the war.

It appears too early to know whether this means President Vladimir Putin has scaled back his ambitions in Ukraine, but Russian military moves this week indicate a recognition of the surprisingly stout Ukrainian resistance. Russian-backed separatists have controlled part of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine since 2014.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday again appealed to Russia to negotiate an end to the war, but he said Ukraine would not agree to give up any of its territory for the sake of peace.

Putin's forces are under great strain in many parts of the country, and the United States and other countries are accelerating their transfer of arms and supplies to Ukraine. In recent days, U.S. officials have said they see evidence of Ukrainian defenders going on the offensive in a limited way in some areas.

Putting a positive face on it all, the deputy chief of the Russian general staff said his forces had largely achieved the ``main objectives'' of the first phase of what Moscow calls a ``special military operation'' in Ukraine.

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