Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he believes Russian leader Vladimir Putin wants an end to the war in Ukraine and will take a “significant step” to that end.
He said his recent talks with Putin gave him the impression that the Russian president ‘wants to end it (the war) as soon as possible.’
The fighting has seen Ukraine retake parts of its territory from Russian occupation this month.
The Turkish leader indicated that the situation has become ‘quite a problem’ for Russia. Erdogan said he had “extensive discussions” with Putin during a summit in Uzbekistan last week.
In an interview given to American TV channel PBS, the Turkish president said that he thinks that the Russian president wants the end of the war quickly.
He also said that soon 200 ‘hostages’ will be exchanged between the two sides. But he did not reveal any details about who would be included in such a prisoner exchange.
Erdogan has repeatedly tried to mediate the Ukraine conflict, promoting a ‘balanced’ position as a member of NATO while opposing Western sanctions against Russia.
He helped mediate the United Nations to resume grain exports from Ukraine and said last week he was trying to organize direct ceasefire talks.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has regained some of its lost territory two months after Russian forces seized control of the entire eastern region of Luhansk.
Serhii Haidai, the Ukrainian leader in Luhansk, says Russian forces have retreated from the village of Bilohorivka.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Russian ‘occupiers are clearly in a panic.’
Earlier this month, Erdogan accused Western countries of “provocative” policies against Russia. He warned at the time that the war was unlikely to “end anytime soon”.
Last week the Russian leader said he was ready to meet with the Ukrainian president, but Zelensky was not. He told the Indian Prime Minister that he wanted the war to end ‘as soon as possible’. However, there was no indication from Russia on the question of complete withdrawal from all territories of Ukraine, including the territories occupied in 2014.
At that time, Russia occupied the Crimea region of Ukraine. And now former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says pro-Russian rebels should hold a “referendum” there on the question of annexing the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, collectively known as the Donbass.
President Putin has repeatedly stated the ‘liberation’ of the Donbas region as Russia’s main goal. “A referendum in Donbas is essential,” says Medvedev, who is now deputy head of the Russian delegation to the Security Council.
Local Russian-backed leaders in Luhansk and Donetsk have also called for emergency referendums, and Ukraine’s Defense Ministry adviser Oleksiy Koptyko says these are “symptoms of hysteria” in Moscow’s government and an attempt to spur Putin into action.