Saudi Arabia, Turkey seek deal to return Ukrainian children from Russia – FT

KYIV (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia and Turkey are trying to broker a deal to repatriate Ukrainian children who have been taken to Russia and placed in children’s homes or adopted by Russian families, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

The newspaper, quoting four people familiar with the talks, said discussions had been under way for several months, and that former Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich had been involved in the attempted mediation.

It said officials in Kyiv and Moscow were, as part of the mediation process, compiling lists of children moved to Russia since its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Daria Herasymchuk, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s Advisor-Commissioner for Children’s Rights and Rehabilitation, declined a Reuters request to comment on the report.

Zelenskiy has repeatedly appealed to foreign leaders to help his country get its children back.

Russian and Turkish officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Saudi Arabia has not commented on the FT article.

Kyiv estimates nearly 19,500 children have been taken to Russia or Russian-occupied Crimea since last year’s invasion, in what it condemns as illegal deportations. Ukrainian official data show that only 385 children have been repatriated so far.

Moscow, which controls large parts of Ukraine’s east and south, denies abducting children and says they have been transported away for their own safety.

In June, Ukrainian prosecutors charged a Russian politician and two suspected collaborators with war crimes over the alleged deportation of dozens of orphans from the formerly occupied southern city of Kherson, some of them as young as one.

The charges brought by Ukraine’s prosecutors follow a wider investigation carried out in cooperation with the Hague-based International Criminal Court.

In March, the ICC, the world’s permanent war crimes tribunal, issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, accusing them of abducting children from Ukraine.

Russia rejects the ICC allegations, saying it does not recognise the court’s jurisdiction and calling the warrants null and void.

(Reporting by Olena Harmash, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Alex Richardson)