Ukraine will ask Turkey to close Black Sea access to Russia if war breaks out: Ambassador

Russian Navy vessel Dmitry Rogachev 375 sails in the Bosphorus, heading for the Black Sea, in Istanbul, on Feb 16, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

ANKARA (REUTERS) - Ukraine views the presence of Russian warships near its borders in the Black Sea as a threat and will ask Turkey to consider shutting two waterways to Russian vessels if Moscow invades, Ukrainian Ambassador to Turkey Vasyl Bodnar said on Wednesday (Feb 23).

Russian's recognition of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine this week has prompted a swift backlash and sanctions from Western powers.

Turkey, which borders both Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea, is against sanctions in principle, but has called Russia's move unacceptable.

Earlier this month, six Russian warships and a submarine transited the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits to the Black Sea for what Moscow called naval drills near Ukraine waters.

Asked about the presence of Russian warships near Ukrainian borders, Mr Bodnar told Reuters in an interview that the vessels posed "a great danger" for Kyiv, adding the Russian naval concentration in the Black Sea was "overwhelming".

"We believe that, in case of a wide military invasion or the starting of military activities against Ukraine - when the war becomes not only de facto, but de jure - we will ask the Turkish government to consider the possibility of closing the Black Sea straits for the aggressor state," he said.

Under the 1936 Montreux Convention, Nato member Turkey has control over the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits, linking the Mediterranean and Black seas.

The pact gives Ankara the power to regulate the transit of naval warships and to close the straits to foreign warships during wartime and when it is threatened.

"We have proposed a number of initiatives, starting from methods of consultation between our sides, up until creating a common mechanism of reaction to the threats to security in our region," Mr Bodnar said, adding Ukraine still believed a diplomatic solution was possible.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was cited as saying on Wednesday that Turkey, which has good ties with both Ukraine and Russia, could not abandon its ties with either country and that it would take steps to ensure relations remain intact.

While building close cooperation with Russia on defence and energy, Ankara has also sold sophisticated drones to Ukraine and signed a deal to co-produce more, angering Moscow.

Turkey opposes Russian policies in Syria and Libya, its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its 2008 recognition of two Georgian regions.

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