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Australia knows about Lukashenko's war crimes

On Saturday, September 2nd, Pavel Latushka gave an interview to Australia's ABC Radio National.

On Saturday, September 2nd, Pavel Latushka gave an interview to Australia's ABC Radio National. The main focus was on issues related to the illegal relocation of Ukrainian children from occupied territories in Ukraine to Belarus, and Lukashenko's regime's responsibility for this war crime.

The episode is available at: ABC Radio National Here are the main points from the interview:

You have given the International Criminal Court evidence that you say shows Lukashenko agreed to the removal of Ukrainian children to Belarus, from Russian occupied cities in Ukraine. Can you tell us what is the evidence you have given to the ICC and how did you collect it?

When preparing our submission to the ICC, the team of the National Anti-Crisis Management has reviewed and analysed different materials. Interestingly, Belarusian State media has covered the arrival of the children to Belarus quite extensively, and we have been able to analyze lots of publicly available news articles, photos, videos and social media posts, including some of the actors involved. We also rely on documents that have been passed on to us in confidence. These documents confirm that the transfers were organized and financed based on orders of Aliaksandr Lukashenko and other officials acting on behalf of the so-called Union State of Belarus and Russia. We even know that the decision to provide funding has been agreed upon by Lukashenko and Russian President Putin. The transfers were then implemented by the Foundation of the Belarusian Paralympic athlete Aliaksei Talay, known as a close confidant of Lukashenko, in cooperation with the local authorities in the occupied territories.

How many children? And where are they being taken in Belarus?

Between September 2022 and May 2023, at least 2,100 Ukrainian children aged 6 to 15, including orphans, were taken to a children’s camp called Dubrava, located in Minsk Region. This camp belongs to Belaruskali, a large State-run potash fertilizer producer placed under US and European sanctions. Overall, so far, we identified five camps and health facilities to which children from the Russian-occupied territories were brought. However, we know that the transfers of Ukrainian children had already begun before the Russian full-scale invasion, and the number of children is likely to be much higher.

Lukashenko says it is a humanitarian act to remove the children from danger. What do you believe is the purpose?

It is true that Lukashenko and other actors responsible for these transfers have repeatedly claimed that the children are brought to Belarus for “recreation”. We believe that this is a blatant lie. Instead, the children have been subjected to political re-education and pro-Kremlin propaganda, including meetings with Belarusian Youth and paramilitary organisations, orthodox priests and notorious propagandists. One of these sad examples is a concert of two Belarusian singers, the Gruzdev sisters, captured on video. While on stage at the Dubrava Camp, they say that they hope, and I quote, “that Biden dies, that Zelenskyy dies, too, and that Putin prospers and takes control of all of Ukraine”. For us, it is clear that the children are not brought to Belarus for humanitarian reasons.

Do you know if the children are staying in Belarus, or leaving again?

In general, the children stay between two and three weeks at the Dubrava Camp before they are returned to Ukraine. However, we also found evidence that unfortunately, orphans who had been brought to Belarus before 2022 were subsequently sent to Russia and were given up for adoption.

What is the role of the National Anti-Crisis Management?

As part of the Belarusian democratic movement, the National Anti-Crisis Management is determined to hold Aliaksandr Lukashenko and other members of his regime accountable for the countless crimes he committed. This includes the crimes against humanity committed as part of the brutal crackdown on the Belarusian society following the rigged elections since May 2020, but also accountability for his role as co-aggressor in the Russian re-invasion of Ukraine after February 2022 and his involvement in the unlawful displacement of Ukrainian children from Russian-occupied territories. On this matter, we are also closely cooperating with the Ukrainian Office of the Prosecutor General, who has opened an investigation into the case.

How does it work with the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus under the leadership of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya?

On 9 August 2022 Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya established the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, in which I am the deputy head and responsible for the transit of power. This is the executive body of the democratic forces of Belarus, which should ensure the transition of Belarus to democracy.

Lukashenko negotiated for Wagner fighters to move to Belarus. Now that Prigozhin is dead, who is commanding those fighters in Belarus? What is their role?

Instructor of the private military company Wagner trains the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus
Instructor of the Wagner trains the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus

Before his death Prigozhin appointed the person in charge of Wagner in Belarus. Therefore, most likely, formally he is in charge of them, but after Prigozhin's death, we understand that this private military company will cease to exist. Some of the fighters will sign contracts with the Ministry of Defence of Russia, some of them – with other PMCs in Africa, and some of them – possibly with the Ministry of Defence of Belarus.

But as a unit – Wagner will be spread like butter on a piece of bread.

Can you see a pathway back to democratic elections in Belarus in the near future?

Democratic elections in Belarus will be possible only after Lukashenko's regime falls, everything else that this regime organises cannot be called elections. It is imitation and deception.

Now three years old, can an opposition in exile stay together in the long term?

Yes, it can. This is confirmed by the creation of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus in August 2022, which united the key structures of democratic forces. On 6 August 2023 the Conference of New Belarus took place, where representatives of many, we can say most of democratic structures, parties, initiatives gathered and adopted a number of political declarations and documents. Thus, it was the creation of such institutions as the Cabinet of Belarus that made it possible to maintain unity for such a long time.


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