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Russia-Ukraine war: Turkey says Moscow cancelled Black Sea passage bid upon its request

Decision made before Ankara closed straits on Monday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu adds
Russian Navy's diesel-electric submarine Rostov-on-Don sails in the Bosphorus, on its way to the Black Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey on 13 February 2022. (Reuters)

Russia cancelled a bid to send four of its warships through Turkish waters into the Black Sea at Turkey's request, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said late on Tuesday. 

Cavusoglu told broadcaster Haberturk that Turkey had asked Russia not to send its ships through before it labelled Moscow's invasion of Ukraine a "war" on Sunday, legally allowing it to curb passages under the Montreux Convention

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On Monday, Ankara said it had closed its Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits under the 1936 pact, allowing it to curb some Russian vessels from crossing. The agreement exempts vessels returning to their bases.

"Russia has said four of its ships would cross the straits on Feb 27-28, three of which are not registered to bases in the Black Sea," Cavusoglu said. "We told Russia not to send these ships and Russia said the vessels would not cross the straits.

"Nobody should be offended by this, because the Montreux Convention is valid today, yesterday and tomorrow, so we will implement it," he said.

At least four Russian ships - two destroyers, a frigate, and an intelligence vessel - were waiting on Turkey's decision to cross from the Mediterranean, Reuters reported earlier this week. Two of them, a frigate and a destroyer, had asked to make the journey this week. 

Turkey borders Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea and has good ties with both. 

The move to close the straits was welcomed by the United States who "expressed appreciation" for the move by Turkey, a Nato ally. Ukraine's ambassador to Ankara said Kyiv was "grateful" to Turkey for "meticulously" implementing the pact. 

While calling Russia's invasion an unacceptable violation of international law, Turkey has carefully formulated its rhetoric not to offend Moscow, with which it has close energy, defence and tourism ties. It has called for dialogue and offered to host peace talks. 

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Cavusoglu repeated on Tuesday that Turkey would not join its western allies in imposing economic sanctions on Russia.

Turkey has also sold drones to Kyiv and signed a deal to co-produce more, despite forging close cooperation with Russia.   

It also opposes Russian policies in Syria and Libya, as well as its 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Wednesday the country was set to receive another shipment of Turkish-made drones, which have been deployed against Russian troops since the conflict began. 

The war has left at least 136 Ukrainian civilians dead, including 13 children, according to initial estimates by the United Nations. Ukrainian authorities put the death toll in the hundreds.  

One million people have been internally displaced, the UN’s refugee agency said, and a further 875,000 have been forced to flee Ukraine to neighbouring countries. 

A full-scale invasion of Ukraine was launched last week by Russia in what President Vladimir Putin said was a "special military operation" aimed at the "demilitarisation and denazification" of the country.

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