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13th Apr 2024

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New EU sanctions: Lukashenko also stealing Ukraine's children

  • Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko (l) already under pressure to join Russian president Vladimir Putin (r) on The Hague's wanted list (Photo: Kremlin.ru)
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The EU is putting Belarusian child-abductors on its Russia blacklist, boosting calls for an international arrest warrant against Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko.

Dmitriy Demidov, a municipal chief in the Vitebsk region of Belarus, was one of the "key persons involved in the forcible deportation of Ukrainian children to Belarus and their subsequent illegal adoption by Russian and Belarusian families", said a draft blacklist seen by EUobserver on Wednesday (14 February).

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Three other Belarusians named for child deportations — Dzmitry Shautsou, Aleksey Talai, and Olga Volkova — operated at arm's length from Lukashenko's regime.

Shautsou was general director of the Belarus Red Cross, but personally visited "children from Ukraine in both Belarus and Russia-occupied Ukraine, wearing pro-Russia military apparel," the EU said.

Talai founded the "Charitable Foundation Aleksey Talai", in which abducted Ukrainian "children are forced to attend educational programs which are actively supporting Russian state propaganda, publicly denying Ukraine's right to statehood", the EU said.

Volkova was head of a pseudo-NGO called Delfini, which "ideologically indoctrinated" Ukrainian kids, the EU added.

And Talai's charity and Volkova's NGO were also to be blacklisted for good measure.

Lukashenko's regime was accused of taking over 2,400 Ukrainian children to 13 facilities in Belarus in a study by Yale University in the US in November.

Exiled Belarusian dissident Pavel Latushka also filed evidence on Lukashenko's role in the programme with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague at the same time.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant against Russian president Vladimir Putin in March last year for child abductions, amid Ukrainian estimates that Russia has taken some 20,000 of its minors from occupied territories.

Lukashenko and Putin were both under an EU visa ban for other crimes anyway.

But an ICC warrant would curb Lukashenko's movement in the 123 ICC-signatory countries worldwide, as it has done Putin's — in case a host leader ever arrested one of them while they were travelling overseas.

The Belarusians were to be added to the EU's 13th round of Russia sanctions, due to be adopted by EU foreign ministers in Brussels on 19 February.

The EU originally proposed adding 118 individuals and entities to the 13th list, including Russian firms trafficking North Korean weapons to the Ukrainian battlefield.

But it has now topped up its proposal with a further 43 more individuals and 32 entities.

North Korea

Most of these are Russian arms firms, their bosses, and small-time Russian officials, some of whom were likewise cited for Ukrainian child-abduction.

The top-up list also included North Korean defence minister Kang Sun Nam and North Korea's Missile General Bureau, which makes ballistic missiles.

If adopted in its current form, the 13th round will bring to 2,143 the number of mostly Russian individuals and entities under EU visa-bans and asset-freezes over the Ukraine war.

It will also add firms from China, India, and Turkey to an ever-longer grey-list of companies helping Russia to circumvent EU sanctions.

Entities on the grey-list are banned from buying EU dual-use technology that is forbidden to be exported to Russia.

The EU has also frozen over €320bn of Russian assets and banned €135bn in trade in a bid to weaken Putin's war effort over the past two years.

Lost souls

Meanwhile, its latest top-up proposal also included blacklisting Inna Varlamova — the 56-year-old wife of a Putin-loyalist Russian MP (Sergei Mironov), whose draft EU citation told the story of two lost Ukrainian souls.

Varlamova personally travelled to the Russia-occupied Kherson region in Ukraine and came home with two Ukrainian children, the EU said.

"Together with her husband, Varlamova adopted a child who was kidnapped from an orphanage in Kherson," the EU list said.

This child's "last name was changed to Mironova and her place of birth was changed to Podolsk, Russia, instead of Kherson, Ukraine", the EU said.

It didn't mention what happened to the other child.

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