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Turkey’s Foreign Minister called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “war,” and said his country, a NATO member, would block Russian ships deployed in the attack from entering the Black Sea.

Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey would implement the Montreux Convention, a 1936 pact that allows the country to control its Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits, which together form a strategic corridor between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The convention, whose signatories include France, Germany, Greece, Japan and Britain, allows Turkey to close those waterways to warships when it is at war or threatened.

“It is not a couple of air strikes now. The situation in Ukraine is officially a war,” Mr. Cavusoglu said in an interview with CNN Turk on Sunday.

Turkey’s recognition of the conflict in Ukraine as a war means it can use the convention to bar Russia’s navy.

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Last week, as Russia began invading, Ukraine’s government asked Turkey to prevent more Russian ships from entering the Black Sea. At least six Russian warships and a submarine have passed through Turkey’s straits this month.

Oleksiy Arestovich, deputy head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, said during a Sunday briefing that six Russian landing craft are moving in the Black Sea “looking for adventures near Odesa” but that Ukrainian forces are ready for them. He added that Russian forces have captured the Azov Sea port of Berdyansk.

The request that Turkey block the straits put the country in an awkward position, because it has economic and political ties to both Russia and Ukraine. Turkey relies on Russia for tourists, fuel, agricultural trade and a new nuclear power plant project. It has also purchased military equipment from Moscow. Turkey and Ukraine, meanwhile, signed a free trade deal earlier this month.

Until Sunday, Turkey had condemned the Russian attack on Ukraine as unacceptable, but had not yet called it a war.

Turkey cannot prevent all Russian warships from accessing the Black Sea, because a clause in the pact exempts ships returning to their bases, Mr. Cavusoglu told CNN.

“There should not be any abuse of this exemption. Ships that declare returning to their bases and passing through the straits should not be involved in the war,” he said.

Mr. Zelensky thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Twitter Saturday, saying the ban on the passage of Russian warships to the Black Sea and significant military and humanitarian support for Ukraine are “extremely important today.”

On Saturday, Ukrainians living in Istanbul protested against the Russian invasion, demanding an end to the war.

Street fighting broke out in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, and Russian troops squeezed strategic ports in the country's south on Sunday. The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also announced Sunday that Russian and Ukrainian officials had agreed to meet at the border between Belarus and Ukraine.

The Associated Press

With reports from Mark MacKinnon and Reuters

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