Saudi foreign minister defends role in securing Ukraine prisoner swaps

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Its foreign minister has said it would be reprehensible to view Saudi Arabia’s efforts to release international prisoners held by Russian proxies in Ukraine as an attempt to improve the country’s image after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

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Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said on Friday that Riyadh had first contacted the UK government in April, shortly after a British national, Aiden Aslin and others were captured in Mariupol, in the hope of negotiating their release. Worked for kind reasons.

Asked if this is a rare opportunity to improve relations with the West, the minister said: “I think it is a very cynical approach. What we have seen, what the state leadership has seen, is that of these detainees.” Facilitating the return to their families was an opportunity to achieve humanitarian success. And that’s the inspiration.”


Saudi Arabia, which has sought a softer stance on Russia following the outbreak of the war, has previously said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in a major diplomatic effort, involving former Chelsea football club owner and billionaire Were. Roman Abramovich.

According to a report, one of the five released Britons, Sean Pinner, recognized Abramovich on a plane flying from Russia to Riyadh earlier this week and asked him if he was the owner of the former football club. Sun,

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One of the freedmen, John Harding, gave details of the exchange between the two men. “He went up to her on the plane and asked where she was from and Roman said ‘London’.

“Then Sean said, ‘You really look like Roman Abramovich’ and he replied, ‘That’s because I am him, sir’. He couldn’t believe it.”

Five Britons out of 10 facing the death penalty by pro-Russian separatists were unexpectedly released earlier this week. They were all accused of fighting as mercenaries on behalf of Ukraine, and prosecuted in violation of the Geneva Conventions covering prisoners of war.

Aiden Aslin, 28, returned to his family home near Newark on Thursday, as did other Britons, including Pinner, with whom he was prosecuted in June. Aslin, Pinar and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun were also released this week, sentenced to death in an internationally condemned verdict.

Abramovich has not confirmed the reports, but the billionaire, who was forced to sell Chelsea after Russia invaded Ukraine, appeared in Istanbul in March at failed peace talks between the two sides. He is not on the US sanctions list, partly because Ukraine has asked Washington to act as a mediator.

Prince Faisal said the mediation was “an initiative” led by bin Salman since April. “We became aware of the issue of these foreign detainees and they worked with the UK and others and of course with Russia and Ukraine to get it done,” the foreign minister said.

The Saudi minister said the deal to exchange 10 foreign nationals was linked to a separate, larger deal for the exchange of prisoners between Ukraine and Russia. “This exchange took place only after 10 citizens arrived in Saudi territory and they were verified and this allowed the second exchange to proceed,” Prince Faisal said.

This meant that Ukraine wanted pro-Russian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk and 55 other prisoners to be released before Russia showed good faith, in exchange for 200 soldiers and five commanders of the Azov battalion, who led the defense of Mariupol. That deal also involved mediation by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoan.

  • This story was amended on Friday 23 September 2022 to correct the name of the Saudi Foreign Minister.


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