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Ukraine brings back 4 deported children from Russia through Qatar, tests new scheme

Monday, 16 October 2023, 12:24
Ukraine brings back 4 deported children from Russia through Qatar, tests new scheme
7-year-old boy with grandmother. Photo: Reuters

Russia has agreed to send the first four deported Ukrainian children back to Ukraine within the framework of the procedure upon mediation of Qatar. The scheme was approved after "months of secret negotiations" with Moscow and Kyiv.

Source: Reuters with reference to Qatari official; The Washington Post with reference to an official; Financial Times

Details: A source of Reuters says three Ukrainian children deported to Russia will be handed over to the Qatari diplomats in Moscow this week within the framework of the procedure organised by Qatar for bringing the children back from Russia to Ukraine.

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On Friday, according to the information of the agency's source, Qatar facilitated the return of another Ukrainian child, aged 7, who was reunited with his grandmother and is en route to Ukraine via Estonia. The boy was in an orphanage in Russia "as a result of separation with his mother who was in Russia when the war started", as the agency’s source reports. The WP states that his mother was arrested in Russia and remains in custody. There is no information as to when and why she was detained.  

7-річний хлопчик з бабусею та Львова-Бєлова
7-year-old boy with grandmother and Lvova-Belova
Photo:  Reuters

The other three children are a boy aged 2, a 9-year-old boy, and a girl aged 17.

The Washington Post reports that two children have returned. Two more are expected to reunite with their families in the next few days.

The photos of the Qatari information agency that The Washington Post studied show a little boy with a "blurred" face sitting between his grandmother and Russia's Commissioner for Children's Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova. In other photos, he is shaking hands with a Qatari diplomat and hugging him.

The WP reports that a 2-year old boy who will return to Zhytomyr Oblast in Ukraine was in the hospital. He was only six months when Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, and he "lost contact with his mother". They later reunited in Russia and, as expected, will go to Ukraine this week. The details concerning how and when the child was "put into Russian care" are unknown. The Russian forces occupied some parts of Zhytomyr Oblast in the first weeks of the war until they were forced to retreat.

A 9-year old boy is also part of the group. He was with his grandparents in the southern part of Kherson Oblast when Russia invaded and occupied this territory. The boy is expected to come back to Ukraine on Wednesday.

A 17-year old girl whose family was unable to come to Russia to pick her up will also reunite with her loved ones on Wednesday.

Financial Times specifies that one child has already returned to Ukraine through the Baltic countries and Poland, another one is heading through Qatar with their mother, and two more are expected to arrive in Ukraine through Qatar at the end of this week.

The WP states that the negotiations lasted for several months and were initiated by the Ukrainian government.

It also reports that the Ukrainian children have passed the Qatar embassy in Moscow and went home by different routes. Some of them went from Russia to Ukraine through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Others were going through Belarus.

According to an embassy representative, several vehicles are used for the trip, including a diplomatic convoy, a train and a private charter plane heading through Qatar.

A Qatari official cited by Reuters said the return of these first four children tests a system the Gulf Arab state established after months of secret talks with Moscow and Kyiv.

Qatar's minister of state for international cooperation, Lolwah Al Khater, confirmed the mediation in a statement and described this week's repatriations as "only a first step".

It is not clear how many more children Russia will authorise to return to Ukraine via the Qatari mechanism after the first four, the official said.

Qatari diplomats will accompany the children over the border with Estonia, Latvia or Belarus or to Qatar by a chartered jet before returning them to Ukraine, the official said.

"Both Ukrainian and Russian officials have been cooperative," the Qatari official said, adding that Ukraine approached the Gulf Arab state to mediate with Russia over the children.

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