'Ukrainian sailors' return not possible without Turkey'


Fact that evacuation of sailors from was through Turkey's territory speaks for itself, says 's top diplomat

The recent evacuation of four Ukrainian sailors from Libya "would not be possible" without Turkey's support, Ukraine's foreign minister said on Thursday.

"I can say with all certainty that without the support of our Turkish colleagues and partners, the eventual success of the operation would not be possible," Dmytro Kuleba said in an online news conference.

Sailors Yevhen Morar, Volodymyr Tostohan, Oleh Voynerovsky, and Pavlo Chaika were members of the crew of a tanker detained in Libya in February 2016.

Sentenced to five years in prison in December 2017, they were released earlier this month and reached Ukraine on Jan. 8.

Kuleba said ensuring their safe return was one of his most challenging operations as foreign minister.

"It was an extremely complex, and sometimes perplexing, operation that involved many different actors," he told reporters.

He thanked Libyan authorities for their cooperation and lauded the contributions of his team and other Ukrainian government agencies.

"And, of course, we appreciate the support of our international friends. Even the fact that the evacuation of our four sailors from Libya to Ukraine was conducted through the territory of Turkey speaks for itself," said Kuleba.

Last week, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky also thanked Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for his help in the sailors' return.

Erdoğan, in response, said Turkey was "pleased" to see that the Ukrainian sailors "returned home safe and sound."

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