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Russia returns 6 Ukraine children after mediation by Qatar

December 6, 2023 at 8:05 pm

Children holding paper sheets with colors of Ukrainian flag in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, March 13, 2022. [Riccardo De Luca – Anadolu Agency]

Russia has agreed to return six Ukrainian children to their families in Ukraine, in the latest successful case of mediation brokered by Qatar.

According to the Washington Post, the six children – who had reportedly been living with relatives in Russia and Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine – left Moscow yesterday to travel to Ukraine via Belarus.

In a statement by Qatar’s Foreign Ministry, it made clear that Russia’s return of the six children was a result of Doha’s “ongoing mediation and coordination efforts in reunifying families separated by the conflict”.

Upon the start of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces and their proxy authorities in the occupied territories of eastern Ukraine forcibly displaced tens of thousands of children, as well as keeping many stranded in the occupied territories and separated from their families. Over 19,500 Ukrainian children have reportedly been identified by Kyiv as deported or forcibly displaced, less than 400 of whom have been returned.

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This was the second group of Ukrainian children who were allowed to return to their families in Ukraine through Qatari mediation and negotiations, after four others were returned in October after a Qatar-brokered agreement.

Following the news of Russia’s agreement to return this latest batch of children, photos and videos were released on social media and news outlets showing them being met by Qatari officials at the Gulf state’s embassy in Moscow.

Qatar’s Minister of State for international cooperation, Lolwah Al-Khater, was quoted by the Washington Post as stating that “Building on the momentum of recent weeks, Qatar continues to play a mediating role between the Ukrainian and Russian governments, successfully facilitating the reunification of six additional Ukrainian children with their families in time for the festive holidays”.

These latest reunifications are “part of an ongoing initiative led by Qatar in response to requests from Russia and Ukraine to identify and explore potential areas of cooperation”, she added. “Today’s announcement marks another small yet significant step forward in this collaborative process”.