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Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Live coverage – Thursday 13th July

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Russia has changed its position and therefore the Ukrainian defenders of the Azovstal metallurgical plant in Mariupol have been released, Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan said on Wednesday at a press conference in Vilnius.

– First, Russia made some statements; but then, when (its leaders) found out about certain circumstances, they changed their position and the situation changed, he said.

In this way, Erdogan referred to the release of the defenders of the Azovstal plant who were interned on Turkish territory. In May 2022, the defenders of Mariupol in the Donetsk region, after almost three months of fighting in the besieged bridgehead at the Azovstal metallurgical plant, ended up in Russian captivity. On 21 September, as part of a prisoner exchange with Russia, the Ukrainian authorities managed to free 215 military personnel, including the defense commanders of Mariupol and Azovstal.

Five officers from Azovstal – the commanders of the Azov regiment, Denys Prokopenko and Sviatoslav Pałamar, the commander of the 36th Marine Brigade, Serhiy Volynsky, and Denys Shleha and Oleh Khomenko – ended up in Turkey and were to remain there until the end of the war. This was part of the arrangements with Russia, in which Erdogan played an important role.

Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky visited Turkey on July 8 and negotiated the release of the commanders. Upon learning of their deportation from Turkey, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that this violated the arrangements regarding the soldiers that had been concluded with Russia. He accused Kiev and Ankara of violating the agreement.

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