Interview War in Ukraine

Expert Anatolii Kotov: ‘The deportation to Belarus of Ukrainian children is a win-win for Lukashenka’s regime’

In this interview with Natalia Sever, political scientist Anatolii Kotov explains why the Belarusian authorities continue to bring children from Ukraine to Belarus for 'convalescence' as part of Minsk's collaboration with the Kremlin's deportation policy in Ukraine.

Published on 14 November 2023 at 17:36

While certain Russian prominent figures like Vladimir Putin himself are under investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the illegal deportation of children from the occupied territories of Ukraine, the Belarusian authorities continue to bring Ukrainian children [abducted by Russian troops] from the occupied territories into Belarus, and have even organised a PR-campaign around what they are doing. 

At the same time, everyone has seen just how furious Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenka becomes at so much as a mention of the threat from the ICC. has asked political scientist Anatoly Kotov to comment on the situation:

“The logic of the regime is of course not suicidal, but it is very much of the moment”, Kotov said: “no arrest warrant has been issued on this latest occasion, and the only reaction to previous arrivals of Ukrainian children in Belarus has been expressions of concern. So bringing them into the country is fine.”

“There is another important aspect to these visits for ‘convalescence’, he adds: “the project is not without financial gain. Large amounts have been allocated to it from the budget of the so-called Union State [of Russia and Belarus]. So, the situation we have at the moment is: we haven’t been punished, and we’ve even made some money out of it – it’s win-win.”

Receive the best of European journalism straight to your inbox every Thursday Is there really no one who might ask what would happen if the ICC issues an arrest warrant against Lukashenka?

Anatolii Kotov: The problem is that, starting in 2020, all those capable of analysis have been removed from office. The events that have taken place and still continue in Belarus can be explained by exactly the same logic of the immediate moment: we’re bringing some money in and we’re not being punished, so we may as well continue in the same spirit.

As far as the arrest warrant for the deportation of children is concerned, the regime seems to take the international prosecution seriously; however, they are convinced that there are insufficient grounds for a warrant linked to the deportation. The fact that one may be issued against the Belarusian leader they regard as a matter of political expediency.

In other words, there were grounds for issuing a warrant even before April 2023, when the first information and the first proof of Belarusian involvement came to light. Children were being brought to Belarus before that.

However, despite all the evidence no warrant has yet been issued for the arrest of Lukashenka. This must mean that it is not only a matter of whether there are sufficient grounds or not; it may be a question of having the political will to do it.

This is why I consider that, within the system that they themselves have created, the Belarusian regime behaves very rationally

The Belarusian side may possibly explain the situation to itself like this: we are helping Russia, but we aren’t at war and therefore haven’t crossed any red lines that could otherwise lead to the adoption of a political decision of that kind. 

The only person who has suffered in this story - relatively speaking - is the head of the Belarusian Red Cross, Dmitrii Shevtsov, who Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has asked the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for. So far, Shevtsov hasn’t ‘suffered’ because of the children so much as for his display of the “Z” symbol [carried by the Russian occupation army in Ukraine].  

This is why I consider that, within the system that they themselves have created, the Belarusian regime behaves very rationally. It is another matter entirely that they will one day have to answer for what they have done.

The problem is that they have already been living on a day-by-day basis ever since the events of 2020, and in certain ways since the end of the Nineties.

With the exception of the recent trial of Yuri Goravskii [a member of the Belarusian special forces hit squad responsible for the murder of two prominent opposition politicians and a businessman in 1999. The trial was held in Switzerland under the principle of universal jurisdiction] nobody at the moment is having to answer for what has been done. No one has been punished, imprisoned or detained abroad. True, some limitations have been placed on doing business, but in the current context this amounts to no more than a mosquito bite.

Nevertheless, the collection of documents and other items that prove the crimes of Lukashenka’s regime towards both the children of Ukraine and the Belarusians themselves continues. 

Indeed it does, although it has not yet presented the regime with any difficulties. The recording of instances of human rights infringements and torture in Belarus is also on-going.

Representatives of the regime know full well that everything they do is being noted down and documented. What’s more, the information that the regime itself generates will be far more valuable. 

Diaries on paper or in electronic form are being kept in Belarus. There are witnesses who participate in all these activities, and many people who also file material away from each other, just in case there is a change of government. These are known facts.

👉 Original article on Salidarnasts 

Was this article useful? If so we are delighted! It is freely available because we believe that the right to free and independent information is essential for democracy. But this right is not guaranteed forever, and independence comes at a cost. We need your support in order to continue publishing independent, multilingual news for all Europeans. Discover our subscription offers and their exclusive benefits and become a member of our community now!

Are you a news organisation, a business, an association or a foundation? Check out our bespoke editorial and translation services.

Support independent European journalism

European democracy needs independent media. Join our community!

On the same topic