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Turkey hopes its citizens can be evacuated from Ukraine mosque - minister

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday he hoped progress could be made on evacuating Turks stuck in a mosque in the southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, adding he had sought help from his Russian counterpart on the issue.

Ukraine has accused Russia of failing to observe ceasefires to allow people to leave Mariupol, a southern city where a blockade has left hundreds of thousands trapped. Russia blames Ukraine for its failure to evacuate people.

Ukraine's foreign ministry said on Saturday that Russian forces had shelled the Sultan Suleiman mosque, where more than 80 adults and children, including Turks, have taken refuge. Moscow has denied targeting civilian areas in what it calls a special military operation in Ukraine.

Cavusoglu said there was no damage to the mosque and that buses were waiting to evacuate the Turks, although contact could not currently be established due to clashes in the area.

"In my phone call with Mr (Sergei) Lavrov, I ... asked him for support in evacuating these citizens of ours in Mariupol," Cavusoglu said, referring to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He added Turkey had shared information with Russia about its citizens stuck in areas Russian forces had entered.

"For some days, we have been sending our buses there, but because clashes continue in the city the buses cannot enter," he said, speaking at a news conference in Antalya.

"The problem here is that since cell phones cannot be used and because clashes continue, even if we wait there, how will we get our citizens back? ... But we expect to make some headway on this today."

Ukraine's embassy in Ankara said on Friday 86 Turks were sheltering in the mosque and that 34 of them were children. Turkey has not commented on the number of Turks there.

Cavusoglu said 14,480 Turkish citizens have so far been evacuated from Ukraine.

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