Russia releases four Ukrainian children after mediation by Qatar

KYIV — Russia has agreed to free four Ukrainian children — ranging in age from 2 to 17 — and permit them to return them to their households in Ukraine after Qatar intervened as a mediator, in response to a authorities official briefed on the matter. Two of the children are actually again with kin and two others are anticipated to be reunited with their households within the coming days, the official, who spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate delicate diplomatic negotiations, stated.

Qatar’s position within the negotiations, which lasted a number of months, got here on the request of the Ukrainian authorities.

The Ukrainian children handed via Qatar’s Embassy in Moscow and took totally different routes dwelling. Some traveled or have been scheduled to journey from Russia to Ukraine by way of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Others went via Belarus.

The journey preparations concerned a number of forms of transport, together with diplomatic convoy, practice and a privately chartered airplane via Qatar, the official stated.

“We welcome today’s positive news, about the reunification of children with their families in Ukraine through Qatari mediation efforts,” Lolwah Al-Khater, Qatar’s minister of state for worldwide cooperation stated in a press release. In latest weeks, Qatari officers have been in “continuous dialogue with our Ukrainian and Russian counterparts,” she stated.

The reunifications mark a serious growth in what has change into one of the crucial contentious and delicate points since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

They additionally shine a diplomatic highlight on Qatar. The small Gulf nation has usually served as a key negotiator in world crises and will play an outsize position in negotiations concerning the continuing struggle between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip.

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In March, judges of the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, and accused them of struggle crimes, saying the 2 bear particular person accountability for the “unlawful deportation” and “unlawful transfer” of Ukrainian children to Russia.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denounced the arrest warrants as “outrageous and unacceptable” but additionally irrelevant for Russia as a matter of legislation as a result of Russia is just not a celebration to the International Criminal Court.

At that point the warrants have been issued, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin stated Ukraine was investigating some 16,000 instances of compelled deportations of children.

Putin permitted a decree in May 2022 making it simpler for Russian households to undertake Ukrainian children taken from the struggle zone and Lvova-Belova was among the many Russians to take action, adopting a boy from the besieged metropolis of Mariupol.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, who additionally serves as international minister, visited Moscow in June, the place he met with Putin and different high-ranking officers.

The following month, he visited Ukraine, the place he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and pledged $100 million of humanitarian help for well being, schooling and demining efforts. During that go to, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal publicly thanked Qatar for its willingness to mediate the return of Ukrainian children from Russia.

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The full scope of the switch of children to Russia is just not clear. The official stated a Ukrainian listing comprises the names of hundreds of children whereas a Russian listing merely has tons of — a discrepancy that will make it troublesome to search out and return all the children sought by Ukraine.

Forcibly shifting children or stripping them of their id is usually thought-about to be a struggle crime, however the ICC warrants are unlikely to lead to any courtroom appearances except Putin or Lvova-Belova journey to a rustic keen to arrest them.

Putin skipped a summit assembly of leaders of the BRICS nations in South Africa in August due to issues he could be detained. Last week, he made a uncommon journey overseas to Kyrgyzstan.

The four Ukrainian children returning dwelling this week are the primary to be launched as a part of Qatar’s negotiations as a result of “all parties agreed they found their parents, documents all matched [and] they could be reunited,” the official stated.

If all goes easily, the official added, it may pave the way in which for different returns.

Qatar News Agency pictures reviewed by The Washington Post forward of publication confirmed a younger boy, his face blurred, sitting between his grandmother and Lvova-Belova. Other pictures confirmed him hugging and shaking the hand of a Qatari diplomat.

The 2-year-old, who will return to the Zhytomyr area of Ukraine, was within the hospital — and simply 6 months previous — when Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022 and “lost contact with his mother,” in response to the official.

The two have since been reunited in Russia and are anticipated to journey to Ukraine this week. Details of how or when the then-infant was transferred to Russian custody are unclear. Russian forces occupied some elements of Zhytomyr area within the first weeks of the struggle earlier than being compelled to retreat.

The stuffed animals comforting Ukraine’s children in wartime

A 7-year-old boy, who has been staying in a children’s dwelling in Russia, was lately reunited together with his grandmother, who traveled to Russia via Estonia, the official stated. The pair is now on their means again to Ukraine. The boy’s mom, who was arrested in Russia, stays in custody there. It was not clear when or why she was detained.

The group additionally features a 9-year-old boy who was staying together with his grandparents in Ukraine’s southern Kherson area when Russia invaded and occupied the world, together with the regional capital. The boy is predicted to journey again to Ukraine on Wednesday.

The 17-year-old, whose household was unable to come back to Russia to retrieve her, can be anticipated to reunite together with her kin on Wednesday.

Some different Ukrainian children held in Russia have additionally been launched to their mother and father on a case-by-case foundation, often after a relative traveled to Russia and personally escorted them dwelling, a job that may be troublesome, harmful and financially unattainable for a lot of Ukrainian households.

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