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Belarusian opposition group claims Lukashenko complicit in Ukrainian children abduction

by Martin Fornusek June 28, 2023 5:58 PM 2 min read
A Ukrainian woman meets her son Vitaly after he was brought back from Russian-held territory to Kyiv on March 22, 2023.
Ukrainian woman Inessa (R) meets her son Vitaly after he and over a dozen of other Ukrainian children were brought back from Russian-held territory to Kyiv on March 22, 2023. Nearly 19,500 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Sergei Chuzavkov/AFP via Getty Images) 
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The Belarusian opposition organization National Anti-Crisis Management (NAM) submitted evidence to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on June 27 alleging the complicity of Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko in the illegal transfer of Ukrainian children.

According to the organization, at least 2,100 children have been illegally transferred to Belarus amid Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine.

NAM head Pavel Latushka published a letter written by the Russian State Secretary of the Union State of Russia and Belarus, Dmitry Mezentsev, which allegedly proves that the Belarusian government illegally transferred children from eastern Ukraine to Belarus in cooperation with Russian authorities.

NAM said that, between now and September 2022, there was a systematic transfer of Ukrainian minors from occupied towns in eastern Ukraine, such as Donetsk, Mariupol, or Volnovakha, involving more than 2,100 children. Cases of unsystematic transfer prior to September 2022 have also been identified by the group.

Latushka's organization explained that the illegal transport mainly concerned  children in the custody of the Ukrainian state, orphans, children with disabilities, or children whose parents have been deprived of parenteral rights.

They were reportedly first transported to Rostov-on-Don in Russia and then moved to Belarus and placed in a number of camps and sanatoriums.

NAM said Lukashenko himself signed the documents regarding the organization and financing of the transfer.

"The NAM believes that there are sufficient grounds to believe that the above-mentioned individuals committed war crimes," the organization's statement said.

Latushka is a member of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya's Coordination Council, an oppositionist organization launched during the 2020 Belarusian election protests. The NAM functions as a "shadow government" in exile with the goal of a peaceful transfer of power in the country.

The NAM's head was tried in absentia by Lukashenko's regime, along with Tsikhanouskaya and other opposition leaders, and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment. He resides outside of Belarus.

Ukraine's Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets said that Ukrainian children, as well as prisoners of war, are being transported to Belarus with the knowledge of authorities in Minsk.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant against Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova for organizing the illegal transfer of children.

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