MbS, Zelensky discuss war prisoner releases after landmark Russia-Ukraine swap
Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky discussed prisoner exchanges in a phone call on Saturday, weeks after the Gulf kingdom played an unexpectedly key role in a prisoner-of-war swap between Russia and Ukraine.
Muhammad bin Salman, often referred to as MbS, made the phone call to Zelensky, the Saudi Press Agency said, in which he "emphasised that the Kingdom's position of supporting everything that will contribute to de-escalation, and the Kingdom's readiness to continue the efforts of mediation".
Ukraine's president said in a tweet that he and MbS "agreed to interact in the release of Ukrainian prisoners of war".
The Saudi state media report made no mention of discussions of a prisoner exchange.
Saudi Arabia helped Russia and Ukraine reach a deal to swap prisoners last month, which included the release of about a dozen foreign nationals.
Among those released were five British citizens, two Americans, a Moroccan, a Croatian, and a Swedish national.
The war in Ukraine has fuelled tensions between Saudi Arabia and the United States after the kingdom has largely resisted pressure to ramp up oil production to ease the energy crisis resulting from the conflict.
The kingdom has come under growing criticism from Washington after the Saudi-led OPEC group of oil exporters agreed on a drastic production cut with Russia and other allies, which could send energy prices soaring even higher.
Washington has accused OPEC+ of aligning itself with Moscow, and on Wednesday, President Joe Biden threatened "consequences" for Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia was cautious in its criticism of Russia when it invaded Ukraine earlier this year, drawing further Western criticism of Prince Mohammed's de-facto leadership of the country.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir dismissed suggestions that its efforts to help release prisoners were part of an attempt to rehabilitate its image after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi as "cynical".