- Paul Kirby
- BBC News
20 September 2022
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he believes Russian leader Vladimir Putin is seeking to end the war he started in Ukraine and that an “important step” will be taken.
He added that he had gotten the impression from his recent conversations with Putin that he wanted “to end this as soon as possible”.
Ukraine regained control of large areas of its territory this month.
The Turkish leader noted that things are “very problematic” for Russia.
This came after Erdogan had “very intense discussions” with Putin during a summit in Uzbekistan last week.
The Turkish leader said, in an interview with the American channel “PBS”, that he had the impression that the Russian president wanted to end the war quickly.
“It actually shows me that he (Putin) is ready to end this as soon as possible. This is my impression, because the way things are going now is very problematic,” Erdogan added.
He said that soon 200 “hostages” will be exchanged between the two sides, and he did not mention any other details about who would be included in the list of such a prisoner exchange.
Erdogan has repeatedly sought to mediate during the war by promoting a “balanced” position for NATO member Turkey, while opposing Western sanctions against Russia.
He also helped the United Nations broker the resumption of grain exports from Ukraine, and said last week he was seeking to organize direct talks for a ceasefire.
Meanwhile, Ukraine reclaimed vast swathes of territory two months after Russian forces took control of the entire eastern region of Luhansk.
Serhiy Haiday, governor of Luhansk, said that Russian forces had retreated from the village of Belhorivka, but had done their best to dig trenches elsewhere.
“It is clear that the occupiers are in a state of panic,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.
Erdogan, earlier this month, accused the West of adopting a “provocative” policy toward Russia and warned that the war was unlikely to end “anytime soon.”
Putin also announced last week that he was open to meeting the Ukrainian president, but Zelensky is not. The Russian leader told the Indian prime minister that he wanted to end the war “as soon as possible”.
Despite this, Russia has shown no sign of its willingness to accept Kyiv’s demands for a complete withdrawal from Ukrainian territory, including the areas it seized in 2014.
Russia annexed Crimea at the time, and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who is currently deputy head of the Russian Security Council, said that the Russian-backed separatists must hold a “referendum” on the annexation of the lands of Luhansk and Donetsk, known as Donbass. .
Putin has long considered the “liberation” of Ukraine’s Donbass region a major goal of Russia, and Medvedev said, “a referendum in Donbass is necessary.”
Russian-backed local leaders in Luhansk and Donetsk also called for an urgent referendum, and an advisor to Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Oleksiy Kopetko, noted that the referendum was a “sign of Moscow’s hysteria”, as well as an attempt to urge Putin to act.
Ukrainian forces, in addition to retaking a swathe of the northeastern Kharkiv region, launched a counterattack in the southern Kherson region, forcing its Russian-appointed leader to delay the referendum on joining Russia.
Asked by PBS if Russia should be allowed to keep any territory it has occupied since February, and whether it should be part of a peace agreement, Erdogan said: “No, without a doubt not.”
“The conquered territories will be returned to Ukraine,” he added, and it was not clear whether this also included lands controlled by separatists, backed by Russia, since 2014.
Asked if Russia should be allowed to keep Crimea, which it annexed in 2014, Erdogan said Turkey has, since that time, been talking with Putin to return the peninsula to its “legitimate owners” but no progress has been made.