Covert Negotiations between Russia and Ukraine for the Repatriation of Children


Mediation in Repatriating Ukrainian Children: Saudi Arabia and Turkey Facilitating Negotiations between Moscow and Kiev

The governments of Arab Saudi and Turkey are reportedly acting as intermediaries in secret negotiations between Moscow and Kiev to repatriate Ukrainian children to Russia. These negotiations, which have been ongoing for several months, have raised concerns due to the lack of accurate information regarding the number of Ukrainian children being transported to Russia.

According to the Financial Times, four reliable sources claim that the discussions, facilitated by Saudi Arabia and Turkey, involve the compilation of a comprehensive list of Ukrainian children either sent to Russian orphanages or adopted by Russian families. The involvement of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich in the mediation process has also been noted.

Counting the exact number of repatriated Ukrainian children has proven to be a challenging task due to the diverse circumstances surrounding their transfer. However, the primary objective of these negotiations is to ensure the accurate counting of all children and to find the best solution for each individual case.

Controversy Surrounding Repatriation

The repatriation of Ukrainian children has become a highly contentious issue, causing both Kiev and Moscow officials to refrain from direct exchanges with each other. This stands in contrast to previous negotiations involving prisoner exchanges or ceasefire agreements.

The sensitivity of the matter and the lack of mutual trust between the parties involved necessitate the intervention of an independent intermediary capable of providing comprehensive data on all Ukrainian children, while simultaneously gaining acceptance from both Russia and Ukraine.

International Support for the Mediation Process

Besides Turkey, Western countries have expressed approval for Saudi Arabia to continue its role as a mediator in the repatriation of Ukrainian children. This endorsement came after Riyadh voiced concerns during a G20 officials’ meeting held in Copenhagen in June.

Since the outbreak of hostilities, Ukraine estimates that nearly 19,500 children have been transported to Russia or the Crimean Peninsula. However, the number of repatriated children remains significantly low, with only 385 having returned home thus far.

In March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, the Children’s Rights Commissioner, on charges of “illegally transporting” Ukrainian children to Russia.

Notably, Russia does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC and considers its decisions to be invalid. They argue that children were transferred from conflict zones with the consent of their lawful parents or guardians, emphasizing the priority of their safety.

Involvement of Key Figures

While Arab Saudi and Turkey mediate the negotiations, the governments of Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Ukraine, as well as Russian billionaire Abramovich, have not responded to requests for comment regarding their involvement in the repatriation process.


The ongoing negotiations mediated by Saudi Arabia and Turkey have drawn attention to the repatriation of Ukrainian children from Russia. With the involvement of multiple nations, these discussions aim to address the complexities associated with repatriation, including the accurate counting of children and finding suitable solutions for each individual case.

As the situation unfolds, it is imperative to strike a delicate balance between the interests of all parties involved, ensuring the safe return of Ukrainian children to their home country while upholding their individual rights and well-being.

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