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Russia, Ukraine Exchange Children with Qatar’s Mediation

By Vusala Abbasova March 24, 2024

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Orchestrated with the support of diplomatic channels, the exchange saw five children returning to Ukraine, while one child reunited with relatives in Russia.

Russia and Ukraine exchanged children through Qatar’s mediation, marking a significant step toward family reunification amid ongoing conflict.

Orchestrated with the support of diplomatic channels, the exchange saw five children returning to Ukraine, while one child reunited with relatives in Russia. 

The family reunion took place at the Qatar Embassy in Moscow on Thursday, with the participation of the Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, and a representative from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Qatar’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Ahmed bin Nasser bin Jassim Al Thani, expressed gratitude toward Russia for its collaborative efforts in the reunification process, extending special thanks to Russian President Vladimir Putin for his instrumental role in facilitating the operation.

“This is a very important family reunification process. We thank Russian President Vladimir Putin for contributing to this operation. Also, all this is happening under the guidance and within the framework of the directives of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. We try our best to assist in these matters,” he stressed.

In turn, Lvova-Belova conveyed her appreciation to the Qatari Ambassador for their assistance, highlighting Qatar’s role not only in mediating but also in resolving financial hurdles that often impede such reunification efforts. Lvova-Belova informed reporters that six families were reunited during the operation, with five children returning to Ukraine and one journeying to Russia to be with his grandmother.

Thursday’s exchange marks a significant milestone in the ongoing efforts to reunite families torn apart by the conflict. The government in Kyiv claims that at least 19,500 Ukrainian children have been deported and forcibly displaced from their homes to Russia and Russian-annexed territories since the full-scale invasion began in February 2022. However, this statistic includes only those children for whom information has been provided. Presumably, the real figure is considerably higher.

Russia denies allegations of unlawful deportation and transfer of children, citing efforts to protect vulnerable children from the war zone. Lvova-Belova justified Russia’s activities, describing the transfer of Ukrainian youngsters as a rescue effort meant to protect them. According to her, family members have transported some 730,000 children to Russia, and 2,000 youngsters were evacuated for their safety from orphanages in Ukraine, although she makes no mention of forcible displacement.

According to the BBC, citing researchers from Yale University in the US, children were often placed in re-education camps or psychiatric hospitals. Russian authorities have allegedly made it easier to adopt a Ukrainian child, change their name, and issue them a Russian passport. The humanitarian organization Save Ukraine has so far managed to rescue 273 kidnapped Ukrainian children.