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Russia and Ukraine Hold Historic Talks for Childern Exchange Amidst Conflict

Russia and Ukraine have recently engaged in face-to-face discussions to facilitate the exchange of children affected by the ongoing conflict, as announced by Moscow’s children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova. According to Lvova-Belova, forty-eight children are scheduled to be swapped under an agreement reached in Qatar, with twenty-nine destined for Ukraine and nineteen for Russia.

The mediation for this exchange was conducted by Qatar, responding to appeals from both Moscow and Kyiv to explore potential avenues for cooperation. However, Lvova-Belova did not provide specifics regarding why these children were in Russian custody or their origins.

Notably, both Lvova-Belova and President Vladimir Putin are wanted by the International Criminal Court for Russia’s alleged involvement in transferring Ukrainian children into Russian territory, which is considered a war crime. Russia, though not a member of the ICC, rejects the validity of the warrant against Putin.

Kyiv has claimed that approximately 20,000 children were compelled to relocate to Russia following Moscow’s invasion in February 2022, characterizing it as a “genocide,” according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Lvova-Belova dismissed this figure as inaccurate, stating it originated from the early stages of the conflict when the frontline was volatile.

The plight of these children has been a sensitive issue in Ukraine since the conflict’s onset two years ago. Many lost their parents, while others were separated from caregivers due to the rapidly shifting frontlines during the invasion. Some were residing in Ukrainian orphanages in areas later occupied by Russia.

Ukraine contends that Russian forces unlawfully deported these children to Russia, accusing Russian authorities of attempting to erase their Ukrainian identity. Reports indicate that teenagers who returned to Ukraine underwent Russian patriotic indoctrination and were coerced to praise the Russian military.

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