Russia’s decision to recognize two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent is unacceptable, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said early Tuesday.
"The decision of Russia to recognize the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk Republics amounts to a clear violation of not only the Minsk agreements, but also Ukraine's political unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. We find Russia's so-called decision to be unacceptable and reject it," the ministry said in a written statement.
The ministry further underlined Turkey’s commitment to preserving Ukraine’s political unity and territorial integrity while calling on all sides to respect international law.
NATO member Turkey, which shares a maritime border with both Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea, has good ties with both its neighbors and has offered to mediate the crisis, while warning Moscow against invading Ukraine. Turkey has been closely following the developments and is in close contact with both Kyiv and Moscow. While forging cooperation on defense and energy, Turkey has opposed Moscow’s policies in Syria and Libya, as well as its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. It has also sold sophisticated drones to Ukraine, angering Russia.
As tensions have mounted, the ministry also separately said Turkish citizens in eastern Ukraine are "strongly advised" to leave the region due to the latest developments there.
"Within the framework of the latest developments in eastern regions of Ukraine, our citizens are strongly advised to leave eastern regions of Ukraine," the ministry said on Twitter.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed decrees to recognize the sovereignty of Luhansk and Donetsk, known as the Donbass, at a televised event in which he delivered a fiery speech questioning Ukraine's right to statehood.
Putin also instructed Moscow's Foreign Ministry to establish formal diplomatic relations with the two areas held by pro-Russia rebels, which are part of the Donbass region and belong to Ukraine under international law.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Kyiv now expects "clear and effective steps of support from our partners" and that Moscow's recognition of Luhansk and Donetsk might constitute a unilateral withdrawal from the Minsk Protocol, an agreement struck between Russia and Ukraine in 2015 to resolve the conflict in the Donbass region.
There have been worries in Washington and European capitals for weeks that Moscow could use the recognition of independence in the Donbass region as a way to move in troops.
Russia did something similar in 2008, when the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia broke away from Georgia. After a war in Georgia, Russia recognized the regions as independent states in 2008. That allowed Moscow to station thousands of soldiers there.
Fighting has flared in recent days in the Donbass between the Russian-backed rebels and Ukrainian forces, with fears that it could become the flashpoint for a wider war and Russian invasion.
More than 14,000 people have died in periodic fighting since the conflict erupted in 2014 following Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, with a cease-fire and peace plan put in place in 2015 largely ignored.