Russia returns six children to Ukraine in Qatar-brokered deal: State media

Boys aged between six and 17 latest to be handed over since start of Qatari mediation efforts last year.

The event was held in the Qatari embassy in Moscow [File: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

Russia has returned six children displaced by the war in Ukraine in a deal brokered by Qatar, according to Russian state media.

TASS news agency published a video on Wednesday showing Qatar’s ambassador shaking hands with the children – all male and aged between six and 17, including two brothers – in Qatar’s embassy in Moscow.

There was no immediate comment by Ukraine, but TASS said the event was also attended by officials representing Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova.

The commissioner and Russian President Vladimir Putin are currently wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for “unlawfully deporting” children from Ukraine to Russia, a charge the Kremlin denies.

Ukraine believes Russia has illegally taken about 20,000 Ukrainian children and minors since its February 2022 invasion, of which fewer than 400 have been returned. Russia denies that charge, saying it has transferred them for their safety away from warzones.

Some of the minors’ parents were killed, while others were separated from their carers by the fast-moving front lines at the start of the war. A number of them were living in Ukrainian orphanages in areas Russia then occupied.

Since last year, Qatar has led family reunification efforts following talks with both Russia and Ukraine. At Wednesday’s event, TASS quoted the Qatari ambassador in Moscow as saying the Gulf state hoped to continue the cooperation.

Last month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 16 Ukrainian children who “had previously been forcibly deported” to Russia were recovering in Qatar.

Zelenskyy said the group was reunited with their families thanks to the Qatari mediation efforts that have helped bring back dozens of children taken during the war.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies