The diplomatic move offers hope for further family reunifications amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine tensions
Four Ukrainian children have been released by Russia and returned to their families in a breakthrough mediated by Qatar, authorities confirmed on Monday.
The children, aged between 2 and 17, were separated from their families following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Two of these children are already reunited with their families, while the other two are set to join them in the coming days, Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
“The State of Qatar is pleased to announce the successful family reunification process of Ukrainian children with their families in Ukraine,” it read,
The ministry facilitated the children’s stay at the Qatari Embassy in Moscow and ensured their safe passage to Ukraine, emphasising its focus on the “safety, comfort, and well-being” of the children and their families throughout the operation.
It extended its “sincere gratitude and appreciation to both the Ukrainian and Russian governments for their cooperation.”
“This mediation effort further underscores Qatar’s enduring commitment to promoting peace, stability, and security both regionally and internationally,” the statement read.
Qatar said it is ready to play a constructive role in global crises, cementing its reputation as a reliable diplomatic mediator.
“All parties agreed they found their parents, documents all matched [and] they could be reunited,” an anonymous official revealed to The Washington Post. This move may set a precedent for future repatriations, added the source.
Qatar’s Minister of State for International Cooperation, Lolwah Al-Khater, released a statement applauding the development.
“We express our gratitude to Russia and Ukraine for their commitment to the successful reunification of Ukrainian kids with their families. Qatar will continue its mediation efforts in this context and others, in line with its principles towards conflict resolution and peace-making.” she said in a tweet.
The Ukrainian government formally requested Qatar’s involvement in the negotiations, which spanned several months.
Images show one young boy—his face intentionally obscured—surrounded by his grandmother and Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, reported The Post.
Additional photographs show the child warmly embracing a Qatari diplomat.
The 2-year-old boy lost contact with his mother when Russia first invaded Ukraine. He was a mere 6 months old at the time and hospitalised. The mother and son have since been reunited in Russia and are scheduled to travel back to Ukraine this week.
The children took diverse routes back to their homeland. Various modes of transport, including diplomatic convoys, trains and privately chartered planes from Qatar, facilitated their journeys.
This diplomatic endeavour follows a tense backdrop marked by criminal charges and geopolitical discord.
Judges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague previously issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Lvova-Belova, accusing them of war crimes related to the “unlawful deportation” and “unlawful transfer” of Ukrainian children.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov dismissed the warrants as “outrageous and unacceptable.”
Ukrainian authorities are investigating nearly 16,000 cases of forced child deportations. Discrepancies between Ukrainian and Russian records indicate the scale of the issue is still undetermined, complicating efforts to facilitate the return of all displaced children.
Since the onset of the conflict, Qatar has taken a careful balancing approach with both sides to secure itself as a potential candidate for mediation.
In recent months, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, who also serves as foreign minister, met with both President Putin in Moscow and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine, pledging $100 million for humanitarian aid in health and education.