Belarus Red Cross in row over transfer of Ukrainian children

Belarus Red Cross in row over transfer of Ukrainian children

The chief of the Belarus Red Cross has triggered an international furore after telling state television that his organization has been actively engaged in the transfer of children from Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine to Belarus.

Denounced as unlawful deportations by Ukraine and by the Belarusian opposition, the reported transfers have led to demands that Alexander Lukashenko, the authoritarian Belarus leader, should face war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) like those filed against Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

In a state TV broadcast report on a visit to the Russian-held Ukrainian city of Lysychansk, Dzmitry Shautsou, head of the Belarus Red Cross, is shown stating how his organization has been actively involved in bringing Ukrainian children to Belarus for reasons of “health improvement”. The Belarus Red Cross “has taken — is taking and will be taking — an active part” in the process, he adds.

[Dzmitry Shautsou, head of the Belarus Red Cross, said his organisation “has taken — is taking and will be taking — an active part” in the process. Credit: Euroradio. About Belarus in English @Euroradio_EN]

The largest humanitarian organization in Belarus, the Belarus Red Cross is part of the 191-member International Federation of Red and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The latter has demanded that the Belarus institution “stop any similar activity in the future.”

An IFRC media statement went on to stress that the Belarus Red Cross chief does not speak on behalf of the federation and that “his statements do not represent our views.”

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has urged the Hague-based ICC “to issue an arrest warrant” for Shautsou, asserting that he “has publicly confessed to the crime of unlawful deportation of children from occupied areas of Ukraine.”

[Pavel Latushka, member of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, submits evidence of the war crimes committed by Lukashenko to the International Criminal Court. Credit: НАРОДНОЕ АНТИКРИЗИСНОЕ УПРАВЛЕНИЕ (NAU)]

Just a month ago, the Belarusian opposition activist Pavel Latushka said he had provided the ICC with material allegedly detailing the forced transfer of 2,100 Ukrainian children from at least 15 Russia-occupied Ukrainian cities to Belarus with Lukashenko’s approval.

Formerly a senior official in the Lukashenko government, Latushka says the removal of Ukrainian children to Belarus is illegal and in violation of international norms. “We have evidence that after being taken to Belarus, some Ukrainian children ended up in Russia, which must become a subject of an international probe,” he told the Associated Press.

Last May, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office announced its own investigation into the forced transfers.

Minsk has repeatedly rejected Belarusian opposition claims that Lukashenko facilitated the forcible transfer of Ukrainian children to Belarus. However, Belarusian authorities have confirmed hosting more than 1,000 children, aged 6-15, from Russian-held parts of Ukraine for health reasons.

From the outset, when he allowed the Kremlin to use Belarusian territory to send troops and weapons into Ukraine, Lukashenko has been Moscow’s closest ally.

On Tuesday, European Parliament members called on the ICC to consider issuing an arrest warrant for Lukashenkо.


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