KYIV -- On a visit to Kyiv, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated Turkey’s support for Ukraine's territorial integrity, emphasizing that Ankara doesn't recognize Russia’s “illegitimate” takeover of Crimea.
Erdogan was speaking at a news conference in the Ukrainian capital on February 3 following talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
The Turkish leader said that Turkey will help build housing for “nearly 500 families” of Crimean Tatars who have relocated to other parts of Ukraine following the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula in March 2014.
Rights groups and Western governments have denounced what they describe as a campaign of repression by the Russian-imposed authorities against Crimean Tatars -- an Turkic ethnic group -- and others who have spoken out against Moscow's military seizure and occupation of Crimea.
Erdogan, who has been strengthening ties with Russia in recent years, has adamantly opposed Russia's moves in Crimea, particularly speaking up for the rights of the Crimean Tatars.
Ukraine is also battling Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine which has claimed more than 13,000 lives since April 2014.
Speaking alongside Erdogan, Zelenskiy said Kyiv counted on Ankara to help win the release of dozens of Ukrainians, particularly Crimean Tatars, being “illegally” held behind bars in Russia or Crimea.
Zelenskiy also said a military-financial cooperation agreement was signed that foresees Ankara giving Kyiv $36 million to purchase military and dual-purpose goods from Turkey.
Both sides also discussed possible natural-gas supplies to Ukraine via Turkey from the Caspian Sea.
The two leaders, who last met in Ankara in August, also chaired the eighth meeting of the High-Level Strategic Council.
The sides signed a number of intergovernmental documents, including a memorandum of understanding regarding negotiations on a free-trade area agreement, according to Zelenskiy’s office.
Zelenskiy, a former comedian, swept to a landslide victory in an April 2019 presidential election on promises to root out entrenched corruption and improve Ukraine's struggling economy.