Belarus’ Lukashenko implicated in mass kidnapping of Ukrainian children deported to Belarus for Russian propaganda ‘re-education training’

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko arrives to attend a meeting with foreign correspondents, in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, July 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
By Thomas Brooke
4 Min Read

Evidence implicating Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in a mass kidnapping operation and forced deportation of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers to Belarus has been passed to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

National Anti-Crisis Management (NAM), an organization created in Belarus back in 2020 to oversee the transfer of power from the Belarusian leader to a new president, announced it had submitted documentation regarding the “unlawful displacement of more than 2,100 children from 15 Ukrainian towns” to camps in Belarus for “ideological re-education” late last month.

It is now alleged that Lukashenko was involved in approving the financing of this operation, and evidence implicating the Belarusian president is now with the international court located in The Hague, Netherlands, according to reports from The Telegraph newspaper.

NAM was designated an extremist organization by the Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs in January this year, and its leader, Pavel Latushko, fled to Poland ahead of being sentenced in absentia to 18 years’ imprisonment in his homeland.

In an interview last week, Latushko confirmed his organization had submitted an appeal to the ICC regarding the “systematic commission of war crimes by Lukashenko and his associates on the illegal transfer of children from the occupied territories of Ukraine to the territory of Belarus.”

It is alleged that Lukashenko was aware of the operation which is overseeing the forced deportation of Ukrainian children to re-education camps in Belarus where the captives are taught “using the Russian and Belarusian regime propaganda machine with the narratives of the ‘Russian world'”.

“Our primary goals are: first is to stop the crimes; second (and yet also the first) is to help Ukraine return the children to their homeland; and third is to bring the perpetrators to justice. After all, as long as there is no responsibility or a real threat of its use, it is difficult to count on the suppression of crimes,” Latushko said.

NAM claimed to have shared a “tremendous” amount of evidence with both the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine and the ICC Prosecutor’s Office.

While the group wishes to see Lukashenko brought before The Hague court, Latushko claims his preference would be for a public trial on Belarusian territory “so that all of Belarusian society could see the face of this criminal with their own eyes, and Lukashenko will listen to the charges by Belarusian independent prosecutors of numerous crimes committed by him and his associates”.

The systematic transportation of Ukrainian children to Russia has been commonplace since the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine in February last year, and government officials in Kyiv now believe that more than 19,500 minors have been relocated by Russian authorities into Russian territory.

According to Darya Herasymchuk, the Ukrainian presidential commissioner for children’s rights, just 361 of these individuals have been returned to Ukraine.

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