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Erdoğan Appears With Putin Via Video for Nuclear Plant Inauguration Amid Health Concerns

Recep Tayyip Erdogan inaugurates Turkey's first nuclear power plant via a video link, at the Presidential palace in Ankara, on April 27, 2023.

The Turkish president canceled a second day of in-person events weeks before national election

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appeared via video alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday during a ceremony for a Russian-made nuclear power plant in southwestern Turkey, in Erdoğan’s second day of canceled in-person events due to illness.

Thursday was the first day that nuclear fuel was sent to the plant in Akkuyu, southeastern Turkey, but more construction is planned before it is fully functioning.

“With the delivery of nuclear fuels by air and sea to our power plant, Akkuyu has now gained the status of a nuclear plant,” Erdoğan stated, according to the Turkish state news agency.

The Turkish president added that the plant was a joint investment with Russia, and it did not put a burden on Turkey’s budget.

Erdoğan has trumpeted big projects and technological advancements in the country under his government, such as new military equipment, as the country heads into presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14 that are expected to be his toughest challenge at remaining in power since he came to office 20 years ago.

Thursday’s ceremony for Turkey’s first nuclear reactors was overshadowed by concerns over Erdoğan’s health.

On Tuesday, the Turkish president stopped a live television interview after he felt sick.

Erdoğan’s communications office on Wednesday evening rejected claims that he had a heart attack and was hospitalized.

Chinese state television had tweeted that Erdoğan was in critical condition after experiencing a heart attack, adding that his wife and relatives were asked to come to the hospital.

The tweet seems to have been deleted and the channel later wrote that media reports stating Erdoğan was facing a serious medical emergency were unconfirmed.

Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, wrote that he had learned that Erdoğan was unwell.

“We are all praying for his health [and] wish him a speedy recovery,” Khan tweeted.

During the power plant ceremony, Erdoğan appeared via video link from his office in the capital of Ankara.

Pictures beforehand were released showing the Turkish president sitting at his desk, surrounded by his staff.

At the end of March, Erdoğan said Russian President Vladimir Putin may come to Turkey for the inauguration, but the Kremlin denied this.

The plant was built with the Russian state nuclear energy company Rosatom.

Erdoğan has strengthened relations with Russia over the years at the same time as tensions with his Nato allies have risen.

Most notably, Ankara bought a Russian anti-missile system, the S-400s, leading to sanctions by the US.

Aydin Sezer, an Ankara-based foreign policy analyst, told The Media Line that the Turkish president was hoping the nuclear power plant would be a boost to his campaign.

However, Sezer said that the future of the plant is unknown since the opposition may win in May.

“Putin took a serious political risk [because] the opposition will question this power plant when it comes to power,” he added.

After Erdoğan and Putin held a phone call on Thursday, the Russian president said that he and the Turkish president agreed their countries will increase their economic, agricultural, and trade cooperation, the Reuters news agency reported.

Kerim Has, a Moscow-based political analyst focusing on Russia and Turkey, stated that Putin accepted the invitation to the ceremony because he wanted Erdoğan to stay in power.

Has believed Erdoğan’s side requested the Russian president’s participation to give the Turkish president a boost before the elections.

“To send some positive signals to [the] domestic audience that Erdoğan is the realizer of huge projects and an artificial image that [the] economy is growing and Erdoğan is a respected world leader that he can keep his relations with Russia while he is also a Western ally,” Has wrote in a message to The Media Line.

Has added that this would lead to Erdoğan being politically indebted to Putin for providing such support.

The plant also poses another risk to the country, according to a group of environmentalists.

The Eastern Mediterranean Environmental Associations argued the plant could lead to a major disaster since it is near one of Turkey’s fault lines in the southeastern region, Turkish news website Bianet reported.

The area experienced a 7.8 rector earthquake in February, killing more than 50, 000 people.

In 2011, an earthquake and tsunami led to meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan.

Source: Themedialine