Ukrainian Children that Russians abducted from the occupied territories are being forced into re-education summer camps in Belarus with the blessings of the country’s unelected leader, a new investigation by Radio Liberty finds.

Since October 2023, the Russians have taken at least 2,442 children illegally abducted from the occupied territories of Ukraine to Belarus, as reported by the Humanities Research Laboratory of the Yale School of Public Health last November.

Radio Liberty journalists have now reportedly established that 13 summer camps are operating in Belarus, where most of the children brought there were abducted from occupied Mariupol and Lysychansk. In these camps, Ukrainian youth are being indoctrinated with ideas that “correspond to the political interests of Russia and Belarus.”

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The investigators also say that the Belarusian branch of UNICEF was involved in the organization of the so-called children’s holiday, where pro-Russian narratives were spread, in 2022.

Several organizations are involved in the removal of children:

  • Charitable fund of the Belarusian Paralympian and “motivational speaker” Oleksiy Talai,
  • The Belarusian Red Cross Society, with internationally suspended membership

The Radio Liberty journalists report that the head of Belarus’s Red Cross Society, Dmytro Shevtsov, “did not hide either his visits to the occupied territories or his support for Russia’s military aggression.”

“In December, the International Federation of Red Cross Societies suspended funding and membership of the Belarusian Red Cross. However, the organization continues to work under the leadership of Shevtsov, just like the Talay Foundation, which was sanctioned only by Ukraine,” the journalists reported.

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The unrecognized president of Belarus, Oleksandr Lukashenko, personally supports the work of the camps.

Investigators say that Lukashenko “exalts himself as the savior of children whose childhoods were stolen by unnamed ‘adults,’” while he calls Belarus, where he usurped power, “a country of stability and peace.”

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Excursions in the summer camps are conducted for Ukrainian children to be exposed to the main symbols of pro-Soviet propaganda. There are meetings with Belarusian security forces, who demonstrated state police riot batons and ammunition, which were used during the dispersal of protesters in 2020-2021 when the presidential elections were held in Belarus.

In addition, children were allowed to take pictures with a riot baton and military firearms.

"Soviet and pro-Russian military themes” are prominent at the events. Meetings are conducted “with the Belarusian police and Belarusian military have simply become integral attributes of the so-called [vacation/holiday for] children in summer camps in Belarus, where children from Ukraine end up in one way or another,” the journalists note.

Given that the deportation of Ukrainian children from the occupied territories to camps in Belarus is fully supported by Lukashenko, it remains an open question why the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague did not issue an arrest warrant for the unrecognized president, as was done for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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