Turkey has criticised an attempt by Vladimir Putin to annex swaths of Ukrainian territory, describing referendums planned for Russian-occupied regions of the country as an “illegal” move that will make it harder to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
In Ankara’s first response to the Russian president’s announcement that state-managed votes would be held in the Russian-controlled parts of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, the Turkish foreign ministry said that the move was a source of concern.
“These types of illegal faits accompli will not be recognised by the international community,” it said in a statement. “On the contrary, they disrupt attempts to revive the diplomatic process and open the way to further instability.”
The statement stressed Ankara’s commitment to Ukraine’s “territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty”.
The referendums, whose results are widely seen as a foregone conclusion, are uncomfortable for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who said earlier this week that Russia must eventually return all Ukrainian territory it has captured as part of a future peace settlement — while also arguing that there should be a conclusion to the war “that will satisfy all parties involved”.
Erdoğan, who heads a Nato member state but has also courted closer economic ties with Moscow, has sought to act as a mediator in the conflict. He has angered western states by continuing to remain on good terms with Putin.
The two leaders were pictured walking arm in arm during a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Uzbekistan last week.