The exchange of prisoners of war that Russia and Ukraine carried out on Thursday caught the world by surprise. Not only because it is the most important agreement of its kind since the conflict began and which allowed the release of 205 Ukrainian citizens and 55 Russian soldiers (including the oligarch close to the Kremlin Viktor Medvechuc); also because of the exceptionality of the moment.

Just a day earlier, Vladimir Putin had accused the West of trying to “destroy Russia” and said he was ready to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, where he would send 300,000 reservists to fight on the battlefield. A full-fledged escalation of war that contrasts with the diplomatic pact reached between Moscow and kyiv to free the prisoners.

The deal has been sealed thanks to the help of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has emerged as the great mediator in the conflict after his intervention made it possible to unblock the export of cereal grains stranded in Ukrainian ports. But also thanks to the crown prince to the Saudi throne Muhammad bin Salman (MBS), who has apparently acted as an intermediary to obtain the release of the ten foreign prisoners of war who were under Russian control.

[Sangre y petróleo, el cóctel con el que el príncipe MBS emborracha al mundo]

It’s about five Britishtwo Americansa citizen Swedishother Croatian and a Moroccan that they were released and that on Thursday they arrived on a special plane at Riyadh airport, as explained by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement.

Faced with such an act of goodwill, the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski, thanked MBS for having “facilitated” the procedure with its “mediation”, despite having maintained a neutral position regarding the invasion from the beginning.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.


international rehabilitation

However, it is no accident that his role in the exchange has focused on the release of foreign captives. And it is that the Saudi prince is immersed in an international tour to restore his image, after a report from the US intelligence services identified him as the mastermind of the kidnapping, murder and dismemberment of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 in Turkey.

Without going any further, in July he met for the first time with the president of the United States, Joe Biden. He took advantage of the energy crisis that the West is experiencing – and that pushed the US president to ask Riyadh to pump more oil so that prices fall – to loosen the relationship. Previously, MBS had a meeting with Erdoğan to turn the page and repair their ties, also damaged by Khashoggi’s death.

[“Me ahogo, quítame esta bolsa de la cabeza. Soy claustrofóbico”, las últimas palabras de Khashoggi]

Mohamed bin Salman, however, has not taken sides. Rather, he has been playing a double game: while he tries to strengthen his ties with the West, he also has strengthened its alliance with Putin in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), in charge of deciding the production of crude oil.

During the summer, as the United States and Europe reduced oil imports to Russia as punishment for the war, Saudi Arabia doubled its purchase. Also, in September, Riyadh and Moscow addressed OPEC members to ask them to lower their goals and thus prop up world prices, which were falling.

Russia-Ukraine War

Source: Elespanol

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J. A. Allen

Author, blogger, freelance writer. Hater of spiders. Drinker of wine. Mother of hellions.

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