Tensions mount as Russian official labels Turkey “unfriendly” in response to release of Azov commanders and grain deal statements

MOSCOW — In the wake of recent Turkish decisions to release the commanders of the Ukrainian Azov Brigade and advocate for Ukraine’s membership in NATO, a high-ranking Russian official has publicly criticized Turkey, denouncing it as an “unfriendly” country and accusing it of betraying Russian interests.

Viktor Bondarev, the head of the Defense and Security Committee in the Russian Federation Council, expressed his concerns during an interview with the state-owned Russian News Agency TASS on Monday. Bondarev emphasized that the events of the past weeks have demonstrated a clear shift in Turkey’s stance, gradually transforming it from a neutral nation to an unfriendly one.

Bondarev cited the visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to Turkey as a turning point, highlighting Turkey’s support for Ukraine’s bid to join NATO as a direct threat to Russia’s security. He further criticized Turkey for releasing leaders of the Ukrainian Azov Brigade that defended the Azovstal complex in Mariupol despite a prior agreement to keep them in Turkey until the end of the conflict. This breach of the agreement, according to Bondarev, constitutes a “stab in the back” and is believed to have been influenced by NATO pressure.

Meanwhile, analysts, including Muhammad Walid Youssef, the head of the International Center for Geopolitical Studies, suggest that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions have inadvertently aided Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in achieving his strategic objectives. While Western allies have closed their doors to Erdogan, Putin has provided him with opportunities, enabling him to pursue his goals.

The escalating tensions and mutual accusations between Russia and Turkey underscore the growing strain in their relationship, with potential implications for regional dynamics and global geopolitics.