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EU Observer: EU to add Belarusian child abductors on sanctions list amid growing calls for ICC arrest warrant for Lukashenko

EU Observer: EU to add Belarusian child abductors on sanctions list amid growing calls for ICC arrest warrant for Lukashenko

The EU plans to add four Belarus individuals to the 13th sanctions package against Russia, involved in the forcible deportation of Ukrainian children, EU Observer has reported.

Belarus has been a key ally to Russia since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, with its leader Alexander Lukashenko allowing Russian forces to use Belarusian territory for the invasion and Russia deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

Since February 2022, over 2,400 Ukrainian children, ages six to 17, have been relocated to 13 different facilities within Belarus, Yale University’s study has exposed. In 2023, Lukashenko himself confirmed that Belarus hosts children from Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, promising to “make their childhood happier” and declaring them part of the Belarusian family.

Among the individuals included in the draft sanctions package are Dmitriy Demidov, Dzmitry Shautsou, Aleksey Talai, and Olga Volkova. 

The EU called Demidov, a municipal chief in the Vitebsk region of Belarus, a “key person” involved in the forcible deportation of Ukrainian children to Belarus and their subsequent illegal adoption by Russian and Belarusian families.

Shautsou, a former general director of the Belarus Red Cross, was accused of assisting Russia in the deportation of “children from Ukraine in both Belarus and Russia-occupied Ukraine.” He personally visited the smallest captives “wearing pro-Russia military apparel,” said the draft decision.

Talai and Volkova have been involved in ideologically indoctrinating Ukrainian children, forcing them to attend educational programs that spread Russian state propaganda and publicly denying Ukraine’s right to be an independent state.

The EU’s move to put Belarusian child abductors on its Russia blacklist has boosted calls for an international arrest warrant for the country’s president Alexander Lukashenko.

In March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova, accusing them of war crimes related to the deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children. Lvova-Belova is among those Russians who have adopted a Ukrainian child since the February 2022 invasion.

Pavel Latushka, a former Belarusian culture minister and now an opposition activist, has presented evidence to the ICC alleging Lukashenko’s involvement in the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children. He called on the ICC to immediately launch an investigation into an illegal system of transferring Ukrainian children, including orphans, from occupied territories to Belarus organized by Lukashenko and Kremlin associates.

If the ICC finds the Belarusian leader guilty, it will curb his movement in the 123 countries worldwide.

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