Kimberly P. Yow

Kimberly P. Yow

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Ukraine’s Zelenskyy pushes for peace, POW exchange with Russia during visit to Saudi Arabia

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Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday with plans to visit the kingdom’s powerful crown prince to push for a peace plan and the return of prisoners of war from Russia.

Zelenskyy’s trip comes as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has sought to position himself as a potential mediator to end the war between Ukraine and Russia — even as Riyadh remains closely aligned with Russia on energy policies through the OPEC+ group of countries.

In message on X, formerly Twitter, Zelenskyy said that Ukraine continued to “rely on Saudi Arabia’s ongoing active support” in pushing forward with what has been described as a “Peace Formula” to end the full-scale invasion, which marked its second anniversary over the weekend.

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Zelenskyy has presented a 10-point peace formula that, among other things, seeks the expulsion of all Russian forces from Ukraine and accountability for war crimes — at a time when the two sides are fighting from largely static positions along a roughly 930-mile front line. Such ideas are rejected out of hand by Moscow.

“The second topic is the return of POWs and deportees,” Zelenskyy wrote. “The kingdom’s leadership has already contributed to the release of our people. I am confident that this meeting will also yield results.”

He didn’t elaborate on that, but said that economic cooperation also would be discussed.

The state-run Saudi Press Agency said that Zelenskky arrived at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport and was met by government officials.

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Over the last several years, Crown Prince Mohammed over the last several years has reached a detente with Iran, pursued a peace deal with Yemen’s Houthi rebels and also offered himself as a leader in other crises worldwide. That’s after facing widespread international condemnation for the Saudi-led war in Yemen and the 2018 killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, which U.S. intelligence agencies believe was carried out on his orders.

In May, Zelenskyy traveled to Saudi Arabia for a meeting of Arab leaders and also met then with Crown Prince Mohammed. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar — all neighbors on the Arabian Peninsula — have been involved with prisoner exchanges since the war broke out in 2022.

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