Zelensky visits Saudi Arabia to push for a peace plan

The trip of Zelensky comes as Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman seeks to position himself as a mediator between Kyiv and Moscow.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, sitting and looking to the left of the camera with a serious gaze.
Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky. Photo courtesy: President of Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Saudi Arabia to meet with the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and push for a peace plan and the return of prisoners of war captured by Russia.

Zelensky’s trip comes as Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman seeks to position himself as a mediator between Kyiv and Moscow, even as Riyadh is closely aligned with Russia on energy policies through the OPEC group of oil countries.

Zelensky has presented a 10-point peace plan that contemplates, among other things, the departure of all Russian forces from Ukrainian territory and trials for war crimes, at a time when both sides are deadlocked on the front line of some 1,500 kilometers (930 miles). Moscow rejects such ideas.

“The second issue is the return of our prisoners of war and deportees,” Zelensky wrote. “The leadership of the kingdom has already contributed to the liberation of our people. I am confident that this meeting will also bear fruit.”

He did not give further details, but said economic cooperation will also be discussed.

The state news agency Saudi Press Agency reported that Zelensky arrived at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport and was greeted by government officials.

Later, he met with Bin Salmán.

In recent years, the Saudi prince has achieved a detente with Iran, tried to reach a peace deal with Yemen’s Houthi rebels and offered himself as a leader in other global crises. This after receiving international condemnation for Saudi participation in the war in Yemen and the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, which according to US intelligence agencies was carried out on his orders.

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

Zelensky’s trip came at a time when Kyiv forces are slowly being pushed back into eastern Ukraine. Russia has taken the lead because of its large advantage in troop numbers and weapons supplies, military analysts say, as Kyiv awaits news of fresh supplies from its Western partners.

The Ukrainian military said on Tuesday it has withdrawn its forces from two more villages near Avdiivka in the eastern Donetsk region after heavy overnight fighting, according to a Ukrainian army spokesman.

Ukrainian troops have withdrawn from Sieverne and Stepove, Dmytro Lykhovyi said on national television. The two villages had a population of about 100 people in total before the large-scale invasion, he said.

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