Espreso. Global

US releases report on Belarus' involvement in deportation of Ukrainian children

17 November, 2023 Friday

Over 2,400 children from Ukraine aged 6 to 17 were taken to 13 institutions across Belarus following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine

Ukrinform reported the information.

"The Conflict Observatory, a program supported by the US Department of State, today released a report detailing Belarus’s involvement in Russia’s systematic removal of children from Ukraine amid Russia’s illegal and unprovoked war," the State Department said in a statement.

The report concludes that these operations are coordinated at the highest levels of both governments and facilitated by each country’s security forces and ultranationalist militant groups.

The report also finds that officials involved in these relocation operations target children from vulnerable populations, including children with disabilities, children from low-income families, children with military parents, and purported orphans.

This was first reported in a study by Yale University, according to Reuters.

Among the key findings in the 39-page report was that children were transported from at least 17 cities in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine. The Yale researchers described this as a regular practice.

Over 2,000 children identified by Yale were transported to the Dubrava Children's Center in the Minsk region of Belarus between September 2022 and May 2023, and 392 children were taken to 12 other facilities.

"Russia's systematic effort to identify, collect, transport, and re-educate Ukraine's children has been facilitated by Belarus. Russia's federal government and Belarus' regime have been working together to coordinate and fund the movement of children from Russia-occupied Ukraine through Russia to Belarus," the report says.

According to the researchers, transportation to Belarus through Russia was "ultimately coordinated" between Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.

When in Belarus, the children were subjected to military training and re-education, and Lukashenko approved the use of state organizations to transport children from Ukraine to Belarus and to finance their transportation, according to the Yale report.

It is unclear how many of the children identified in the study remain in Belarus.

The findings of the Humanitarian Research Lab at the Yale School of Public Health, which is funded by the US State Department, are the most extensive to date on the role of Belarus in the Russian program of resettlement of Ukrainian children.

Belarus' involvement in the deportation of Ukrainian children

In the context of a full-scale invasion, Russia is deporting Ukrainian children en masse from the occupied territories of Ukraine. They are taken to the occupied Crimea, Russia or Belarus, allegedly for rehabilitation or to rest in camps.

A special report presented by the OSCE on May 4 stated that Russia's forced deportation of Ukrainian children could be recognized as a crime against humanity.

On May 24, the Ukrainian Prosecutor's Office reported that Ukraine was investigating the possible role of Belarus in the forced deportation of children from the temporarily occupied territories. Criminal proceedings were opened. 

Ukraine’s Human Rights Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets says Ukraine has confirmation that the forced deportation of Ukrainian children and prisoners of war took place on the territory of Belarus with the participation of the Belarusian authorities. 

Later, evidence emerged of Belarus' involvement in the deportation of Ukrainian children. On June 27, the Belarusian opposition submitted evidence to the International Criminal Court of the involvement of self-proclaimed head of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and his entourage in war crimes.

Later, Pavel Latushko, head of the People's Anti-Crisis Management and representative of the UnitedTransitional Cabinet of Belarus, said that some Ukrainian children from the occupied territories who had been taken to Belarus for "rehabilitation" had not returned. However, the head of the Belarusian Red Cross Society, Dmitry Shevtsov, reacted to this statement and called it "accusations" against Belarus. In response, Kyslytsya asked the UN to respond to the Belarusian Red Cross's admission of deporting children from Ukraine.

On August 11, the self-proclaimed President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has confirmed that forcibly deported Ukrainian children are held in his country. He added that Russia, Belarus would continue to take children from Ukraine.

On September 30, it was reported that Belarus plans to organize visits by representatives of the foreign diplomatic corps to the so-called places of residence, education and rehabilitation of children abducted from the regions temporarily occupied by Russia. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the "visits" to Minsk are scheduled for October 4. 

And on October 4, the International Red Cross called on the Belarusian branch of the organization to resign its head, Dzmitry Shevtsov.

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