Were the Ukrainian children taken to Belarus by force? The Prosecutor General of Ukraine is investigating
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s chief prosecutor said he was investigating the forced transport of Ukrainian children to Belarus, adding that Russia would also transfer the charges to its territory.
Ukrainian law enforcement officials said they were investigating resettlement into Belarus from the Russian-occupied regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, Kherson and Kharkiv.
Pavel Latushka, a former Belarusian culture minister now living in exile in Poland, heads an opposition group, the National Anti-Crisis Management, which documents the deportations. Latuska and his team are handing over the evidence to international organizations in the hope that the International Criminal Court will issue an arrest warrant for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In March, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Putin and his children’s rights commissioner. Judges in The Hague said they found “reasonable grounds to believe” that the two were responsible for war crimes, particularly the illegal deportation and transfer of children from occupied territories of Ukraine to Russia.
Belarus is taking in more than 1,000 children between the ages of 6 and 15 from partially occupied eastern Ukraine’s Donbas “for treatment,” Belarusian authorities said.
Belarusian opposition leaders say more than 2,150 Ukrainian children, including orphans between the ages of 6 and 15, have been sent to so-called health camps and sanatoriums in Belarus.
Earlier this week, Latushka urged the European Union to maintain sanctions against a Belarusian state-owned fertilizer producer, Belaruskali. He accuses the company of financing the forced relocation of children. The sanctions apply to Belaruskali, one of the world’s largest potash fertilizer exporters, and the Belarusian Potash Company, which exports Belaruskali’s products.
“Belaruskali is the company that finances the deportation of Ukrainian children,” Latuska, who was sentenced in absentia in March to 18 years in prison by a court in Belarus, told The Associated Press.
His group claims that Ukrainian orphans deported to Belarus undergo a Russification process before being sent to Russia for adoption, which they say is a violation of the Geneva Conventions against war crimes.
Lukashenko’s government denies these allegations.