Three Ukrainian children who were illegally deported to Russia are in the process of being released to Qatari diplomats in Russia, who will then facilitate their return to Ukraine, an unnamed Qatari official told Reuters on Oct. 16.
In addition, the source revealed that Qatari diplomats had assisted in the repatriation of a seven-year-old boy on Oct. 13 through Estonia. The boy was able to reunite with his grandmother and is en route back to Ukraine.
Two boys, ages two and nine, and a 17-year-old girl will be accompanied by Qatari officials on their journey back to Ukraine, either over land to Latvia, Estonia, or Belarus, or by plane via Qatar.
The return of the four children was the result of months of high-level talks involving Moscow and Kyiv, facilitated by Qatar, and should be considered "only a first step," according to Lolwah Al Khater, Qatar's minister of state for international cooperation.
The children were returned after Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia's Commissioner for Children's Rights, shared a short list of deported children with Qatari diplomats, who then verified their identities and worked with Ukrainian officials to locate their parents.
The unnamed Qatari official said that Kyiv had originally approached Qatar to help mediate the repatriation process, and that "both Ukrainian and Russian officials have been cooperative."
It is unclear how many more children Moscow will allow to be reunited with their familes.
According to the Ukrainian government, more than 19,500 children have been confirmed as being illegally deported, and 386 have been returned.
However, Lvova-Belova claimed that more than 700,000 children had been deported.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants in March 2023 for Lvova-Belova and Russian dictator Vladimir Putin on war crimes charges for their role in the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children during the full-scale invasion.