Russia and Ukraine met in the UAE to discuss prisoners and ammonia

FILE PHOTO: Ukraine's Ambassador to Turkey Vasyl Bodnar speaks during a news conference in Ankara, Turkey, February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Cagla Gurdogan
FILE PHOTO: Ukraine’s Ambassador to Turkey Vasyl Bodnar speaks during a news conference in Ankara, Turkey, February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Cagla Gurdogan

By Aziz El Yaakoubi, Pavel Polityuk and Jonathan Saul

RIYADH, Nov 24 (Reuters) – Russian and Ukrainian representatives met in the United Arab Emirates last week to discuss the possibility of a prisoner-of-war exchange that would be linked to the resumption of Russian ammonia exports, which will Asia and Africa, via a Ukrainian pipeline, said three sources with knowledge of the meeting.

The sources said the talks were being mediated by the Gulf Arab state and did not include the United Nations despite the UN’s central role in negotiating the ongoing initiative to export agricultural products from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports. Ammonia is used to make fertilizer.

However, the talks aim to remove remaining obstacles to the initiative expanded last week and alleviate global food shortages by unlocking Ukrainian and Russian exports, they added.

The sources asked not to be named so they could freely discuss sensitive matters.

Russian and Ukrainian representatives traveled to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, on November 17, where they discussed the possibility of Russia resuming ammonia exports in exchange for a prisoner exchange that would free a large number of Ukrainian prisoners. and Russians, the sources said.

Reuters could not immediately establish what progress was made in the talks.

Ukrainian Ambassador to Turkey Vasil Bodnar told Reuters that “the release of our prisoners of war is part of the negotiations on the opening of Russian ammonia exports,” adding: “Of course, we are looking for a way to do it in any chance.” Bodnar said he did not know if a meeting had been held in the United Arab Emirates.

Putin said on Wednesday that Russian officials would work to unblock Russian fertilizers stuck in European ports and to resume ammonia exports.

The United Arab Emirates foreign ministry and the Russian and Ukrainian defense and foreign ministries did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.

Asked if the United Nations was involved in the talks, a spokesman for the organization declined to comment.

Russian ammonia would be exported via an existing pipeline to the Black Sea.

The export of ammonia was not part of the renewal of the UN-backed grain corridor deal that restored commercial shipping from Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has publicly set several conditions before allowing Russia to resume ammonia exports through the pipeline, including a prisoner exchange and the reopening of the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine have released official figures on the number of prisoners of war they have taken since Russia invaded the country in February. On October 29, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that Russia had released a total of 1,031 prisoners since March.

Russia and Ukraine have revealed few details about direct meetings between representatives of the two countries after the abandonment of ceasefire talks in the first weeks after the invasion of Moscow on February 24.

(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi in Riyadh, Pavel Polityuk in kyiv and Jonathan Saul in London, with additional reporting by Jonathan Spicer; editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Spanish editing by José Muñoz in Gdańsk)

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