Kremlin says Turkey return of Azov leaders violates agreements
Early Saturday, the Ukrainian President reported that Azov battalion leaders had returned to Ukraine from Turkey, resulting in tensions in relations between Moscow and Ankara.
According to Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, the return of leaders of the Azov battalion to Ukraine from Turkey is a violation of the terms of the existing agreements made by Turkey and Kiev. The Ukrainian president announced that leaders had returned early on Saturday.
The Azov Battalion, with racist and ultranationalist roots, has been one of Ukraine's most visible military forces fighting Russia in eastern Ukraine. It has been designated as a terrorist organization by Russia's Supreme Court.
Peskov voiced the Russian government's disapproval of their return to Ukraine to Sputnik, calling it "nothing more than a direct violation of the terms of the existing agreements. Moreover, in this case, the conditions were violated by both the Ukrainian side and the Turkish side."
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Peskov added that Russia was not informed of the return of the leaders to Ukraine, recalling that under the specified terms of the agreement, the leaders were supposed to remain in Turkey until the war came to an end.
In September 2022, Denis Pushilin, the acting head of the Donetsk People's Republic announced that a prisoner exchange with Ukraine had 215 people including the Azov leaders had been transferred to Kiev.
In January 2023, the Hurriyet daily cited Turkish sources confirming that the leaders were in Turkey at the demand of Russia.
The Kremlin spokesperson also told Sputnik that Russia understands that Turkey's position means it has chosen to show its alliance with NATO as a member of the alliance.
Following a 2.5-hour meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday at the Vahdettin Mansion in Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Ukraine is fully deserving of NATO membership.
The Turkish head of state said that Ukraine "deserved" NATO membership and that Ankara hopes the conflict comes to a peaceful resolution, noting that Ankara plans to continue negotiations to end the conflict.
Erdogan further said he expects Russian President Vladimir Putin to come for an official visit to Turkey in August, saying that his visit is going to take place "in the coming month" and that he could hold a personal meeting with Putin in the next two months.