ELAZIG, Turkiye

Another group of Ahiska Turks in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine have been evacuated and reached the eastern province of Elazig in Turkiye on Tuesday as Russia’s war on Ukraine continues. 

At least 185 Ahiska Turks, also known as Meskhetian Turks, arrived in eastern Turkiye as they were greeted and welcomed by Deputy Governor Abdulkerem Abbasoglu as well as the secretary-general of the World Meskhetian Turks Union (DATUB), Fuat Ucar.

The number of Ahiska Turks evacuated and placed in an accommodation center since the start of the war has reached 1,113.

On Nov. 14, 1944, 100,000 Ahiska Turks were deported by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin from their ancestral lands in Georgia’s Meskheti region to distant parts of the USSR, according to the World Ahiska Turks Association. Some of the expelled Ahiska Turks were settled in Ukraine in 1989.

Despite harsh conditions, they preserved their identity over the decades and passed on their cultural heritage to future generations.

Due to the conflict that broke out between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian army in eastern Ukraine in 2014, most Ahiska Turks were allowed to move to Turkiye and settled in the eastern Erzincan province on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s initiative.

At least 3,752 people have been killed and 4,062 injured in Ukraine since Russia began its war Feb. 24, according to UN estimates. The true toll is believed to be much higher.

More than 6.2 million people have fled to other countries, with 7.7 million people internally displaced, according to the UN refugee agency.

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