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Saudi Arabia and Turkey are trying to broker a deal to repatriate Ukrainian children abducted and forcibly deported to Russia, the Financial Times (FT) reported on July 18, citing four undisclosed sources.
Although officials in Kyiv and Moscow are compiling lists of the deported children as part of the mediation process, the two sides refuse to communicate with each other directly, requiring the intervention of third parties, the FT wrote.
According to the outlet, the talks have been ongoing for several months and involve Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch who has previously played a role in various negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.
Ankara and Riyadh have sought to play the role of peacemakers between the warring parties. Both countries have negotiated several prisoner exchanges, and Turkey helped to broker the Black Sea Grain Initiative, terminated by Russia on July 17.
As the FT commented, Turkey and Saudi Arabia hope that the talks on the repatriation of children could evolve into peace talks aimed at ending the war.
Over 19,500 children have been abducted by Russia since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, according to the Ukrainian national database Children of War. Thousands are unaccounted for.
Ukraine has so far managed to return 385 Ukrainian children deported by Russia in an ongoing operation.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants on March 17 against Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova for organizing the deportations.