Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman enjoys good relations with Russia. This has led to an increased purchase of Russian oil. “crucial” in brokering an agreement to release ten fighters captured fighting for Ukraine, Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat told the BBC on Friday.
One day earlier, Ukraine’s government announced an even larger prisoner swap with Russia. This resulted from 215 Ukrainians being freed along with ten Russians. The 56 Russians released were 55 Russian soldiers captured and Viktor Medvedchuk (pro-Russian oligarch).
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed their gratitude to Saudi Arabia, especially for providing a platform for the arrivals of the ten foreigners freed from prison.
Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014, colonizing Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and aiding pro-Russia separatists in the eastern Donbass region. With a massive assault on Ukraine in February 2014, Putin escalated the already eight-year-old conflict, focusing particularly on Kyiv and the outskirts. He also targeted the southern region around Mariupol.
Russia’s assault was met with disgust and condemnation from much of Western Europe and the United States. Washington and the European Union have attempted to enact sanctions that greatly reduced demand for Russian oil, and thus their price – inadvertently resulting in nations like China and India buying up large amounts of cheap Russian oil. Multiple reports from Reuters claim that Saudi Arabia has increased its Russian oil supply, while simultaneously selling Saudi oil to the public at a higher price.
Riyadh calls for peace and diplomacy in the conflict, but not as an ally to either side, while keeping communication lines open with Kyiv and Moscow.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al Saud told the BBC in remarks published Friday that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the country, played a role in personally brokering the prisoner swap.
“Prince Faisal described the release of detainees as ‘an important achievement’ and said he was pleased the 10 men were now returning to their families,”Without quoting long sentences from the foreign minister, the BBC relayed the information. “While Riyadh negotiated the release of the international prisoners it is understood Turkey mediated the exchange of the Ukrainian and Russian captives.”
British networks noted that Faisal denied allegations that Saudi Arabia tried to play a mediator in conflict, to lessen the reputational damage that it sustained following the horrific murder of Washington PostContributor Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi Embassy in Turkey in 2018.
Faisal also stated that bin Salman tried to convince Putin of the benefits of the swap in separate comments to Fox News.
“His Royal Highness was able to convince President Putin that this is a humanitarian gesture that is worthwhile, and this is how we achieved this result,”According to the foreign minister. “His Royal Highness has always been convinced that dialogue is the primary avenue to resolve differences, and he made quite clear through the beginning of this conflict when he reached out to both President Putin and President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy that we believe that there should be a negotiated settlement, and we continue to work towards that.”
“And I think that attitude allowed for a really transparent discussion and was able to facilitate this result,”He was satisfied.
Bin Salman’s office weighed in on Thursday, apparently eager to ensure the world knew of his role in the prisoner exchange, publishing a readout of a call that day between the crown prince and Zelensky.
“The Crown Prince affirmed the Kingdom’s keenness and support for all international efforts aimed at resolving the crisis politically, and stressed the continuation of efforts to contribute to alleviating the humanitarian consequences resulting from it,”According to the Saudi State News Agency SPA.
Zelensky sent a Twitter note confirming and thanking bin Salman. “for facilitation in the release of foreign citizens, involvement in mediation and the leading role of Saudi Arabia in the region.” In a speech to Ukrainians, Zelensky also highlighted Saudi Arabia’s role in the affair.
“All of them will return home through the mediation of Saudi Arabia. I am sincerely grateful to everyone who contributed for your help!”Zelensky announced, annoucing 215 “pieces of good news.”
Putin’s regime also reportedly thanked bin Salman for his intervention.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses the gratitude and appreciation of the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Russian Federation and to Ukraine for their response to the efforts made by the Crown Prince for the release of the PoWs,”A formal statement was issued on Thursday, as reported by Saudi news outlet al-Arabiya.
Bin Salman’s friendly ties to Putin appear to have played a role in the exchange. According to reports, the crown prince is heavily involved in Russia’s oil industry cooperation. This includes scheduling a call with Putin following a leftist American president Joe Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia. Biden visited bin Salman, his country of birth, to discuss reasons for which he had promised to transform Saudi Arabia into an independent nation. “pariah”In the past, the goal was to persuade the country to raise its oil supplies and lower prices. This request has been completely ignored. Reports indicate that Saudi Arabia is buying more oil from Russia than it used to, effectively negating any American sanctions.
According to Reuters Saudi Arabia has more than twice the amount of Russian oil imports in April-2022 compared with last year.
Saudi Arabia had a primary role in the release a group foreigners, who were fighting against Russia alongside Ukraine’s forces. Kyiv claims that eight other prisoners were released, including two Americans and two Brits.
Zelensky offered foreigners who had combat experience travel to Ukraine in the beginning of war to aid the war effort. In fact, Zelensky set up an agency that would screen and train volunteers.
The family of one of the two freed Americans, U.S. Army veteran Alexander Drueke, expressed shock at Saudi Arabia’s role in his freedom.
“I never dreamed that it was a possibility that the Saudi government would be able to do something like this,” Drueke’s aunt said in remarks to the Washington Post. “But any port in a storm.”
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