Turkey, Saudi Arabia in secret talks to Repatriate Ukrainian children abducted by Russia 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a meeting on July 17

Turkey and Saudi Arabia are trying to negotiate the repatriation of Ukrainian children who have been forcibly taken to Russia, kept in orphanages, or given to Russian families, the FinancialTimes reported on July 18, citing four people familiar with the negotiations.

Officials in Kyiv and Moscow are compiling lists as part of a “mediation process” that includes thousands of children abducted by Russians from Ukraine since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the FT stated.

The highly sensitive talks, which have been ongoing for several months, indicate third parties are still looking for ways to agree on compromises between Ukraine and Russia in the hope they can evolve into channels for potential peace talks aimed at ending the war,” the article reads.

According to two of the newspaper’s sources, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who has been involved in talks between the Ukrainian and Russian delegations, is also taking part in the discussions.

One of the unnamed diplomats told the FT that Riyadh raised the issue of deported Ukrainian children at a meeting with officials from several G20 countries in Copenhagen in June and received approval to begin negotiations from the West.

The source said that the issue is very sensitive and “no one trusts anyone,” so Moscow and Kyiv need an independent mediator who has information from both sides.

Ukraine’s Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Daria Herasymchuk, told the newspaper that there is no direct communication with Moscow on this issue and “there can be no negotiations in this direction, because this is not a matter of prisoner of war exchange, these are civilians, these are children.”

Last year, with the participation of Saudi Arabia, Ukraine returned 10 foreigners from Russian captivity. During his visit to Turkey on July 8, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the main topic was the release of prisoners. After that, five Azovstal commanders returned to Ukraine.

Kyiv estimates that the Russians have taken nearly 20,000 children from the territories they occupy, and are holding about 6,000 in “re-education camps.”

On April 27, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution recognizing the forced transfer of Ukrainian children to Russia as genocide.

On March 17, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on suspicion of committing war crimes in connection with the abduction of Ukrainian children to Russia.

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