Belarus Red Cross abet Russia in kidnapping and brainwashing children from Ukraine
Dzmitry Shautsou [or Dmitry Shevtsov], head of the Belarusian branch of the Red Cross has acknowledged that his organization is helping Russia to take Ukrainian children from occupied territory. Shautsou has claimed that there is nothing wrong with this, an opinion unlikely to be shared by the International Criminal Court which has already issued two arrest warrants, including about Russian president Vladimir Putin, over Russia’s illegal deportation of children.
On 19 July the Belarusian publication drew attention to Dzmiter Shautsou’s role in on the state-controlled channel Belarus 1. Shautsou is shown in occupied Donbas which he had clearly entered illegally, without notifying Ukraine’s authorities. While the primary aim of the Belarusian Red Cross’ trip may possibly have been to bring humanitarian aid, Shautsou makes no secret of the fact that his role was to justify Belarus and his own organization’s role in helping an overtly pro-regime organization (the Aleksei Talai Foundation) to illegally bring Ukrainian children to Belarus. A far from secondary role was to participate in a film overtly aimed at pro-Lukashenka regime propaganda and at pushing Russia’s distorted image of its war against Ukraine.
Shautsou expresses “deep outrage” that people “have thrown accusations at Belarus, saying that we are abducting children who come to us to build up their health.” The Red Cross has taken part in this, he says, and will continue to do so. He goes on to say that “we are concerned about the children, give them presents, together with the Talai Foundation do everything so that they forget about the horrors of war and rest, feel that there is an island of happiness.” He was prompted, he continues, by the realization that Belarus was being accused, and that the accusations would, sooner or later, be levelled at the Belarusian Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC]. "Simply to convince myself, and to convince everybody, I got on the next convoy and came here, to show everybody.”
It is to be hoped that ICRC wastes no time in examining just what it is that Shautsou 'shows' through this video and the manner in which the Belarusian Red Cross under his leadership is closely collaborating with a pro-regime organization and a state-controlled Belarusian channel. The current Belarusian regime has already done more than enough to damage Belarus’ image in the world through its close collaboration with Russia and direct help for its invasion of Ukraine. Shautsou is, however, doing inestimable damage to the Red Cross which should, indeed, defend humanitarian values.
During a previous visit to occupied Donbas on 12 July 2023, Shautsou to the Russian propaganda channel Sputnik wearing camouflage gear with a chevron showing the ‘Z’ which has become a symbol of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
Zerkalo both Shautsou and the Belarusian branch of the Red Cross to ask how such behaviour could be reconciled with the non-political position set out in the organization’s charter. Shautsou put the phone down on them. Their subsequent call to the Belarusian Red Cross also went unanswered.
On 13 July, Euroradio that ICRC had announced that they had begun an investigation into that visit. It is to be hoped that they will act somewhat faster now, given Shautsou’s visit and participation in Belarusian state propaganda. The children whom he expresses ‘concern’ for are, essentially either mouthpieces or props for this propaganda film which is aimed, among other things, at suggesting that the children’s suffering and the massive damage to Lysychansk are because of Ukrainian bombing. It should really take ICRC very little time to investigate Shautsou’s part in this overt manipulation and abuse of children as with two places claiming that Ukraine’s Armed Forces “bomb apartment blocks with children”. In another part one hears the so-called ‘mayor’ installed by the aggressor state talk about ‘brother nations’ and Aleksei Talai, the paralympic sportsman and ‘Russian world’ adept say that “Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] and Batko [i.e. Aleksandr Lukashenka] are our presidents!”, with which the children purportedly express enthusiastic agreement.
During the first year after Russia’s full-scale invasion, many parents agreed to send their children for ‘holidays’ to Russia or occupied Crimea, only to then have the children essentially held hostage there, with Russia claiming it was too dangerous for them to return. While it is difficult to say with respect to any particular children whether they, or their parents, were happy to go on such trips, they serve anything but humanitarian purposes. As well as propaganda films, all of these trips are aimed at indoctrinating children into believing ‘Russian world’ propaganda and Russia’s false claims about the war. It is no accident that the 11-year-old boy heard on the video is asked what he wants to become and says that he would like to serve “his country”. It is clear from the setting, and Talai’s approving response that all are to understand that this Ukrainian child believes he should “defend Russia”.
On Wednesday evening, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to issue an arrest warrant against Dzmitry Shautsou, as it has done already against both Russian president Vladimir Putin and his so-called children’s commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova. Attempts from those individuals to claim that children are being taken to Russia and even handed over for ‘adoption’ out of ‘humanitarian considerations’ did not stop the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber from deciding that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that President Putin and Ms Lvova-Belova bear criminal responsibility for the unlawful deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation”.
Some of the evidence comes from public statements, with the head of the Belarusian Red Cross equally active in incriminating himself. On 21 June 2023, for example, Shautsou that there were some 700 Ukrainian children in Belarus who were being “raised” by Belarusian families, with the Belarusian Red Cross directly paying them.
As reported here, there are also serious grounds for concern about the role played by the Russian branch of the Red Cross. One example of the latter’s worrying activities can be seen in the part they are playing in the Russian propaganda campaign #МЫВМЕСТЕ [#WE’RETOGETHER]. As part of this engagement, in early October, the Russian Red Cross began collecting money for the families of men who had been called up, and of military servicemen currently taking part in Russia’s war against Ukraine.
At least one family of a young Ukrainian woman forcibly abducted by the Russians and held prisoner for over a month have also expressed serious criticism with respect to the role played by the International Committee of the Red Cross (see Russia has been mercilessly tormenting 23-year-old Marianna Checheliuk from Mariupol for over a year