on Wednesday 6 December, 2023

US sanctions Belarus Red Cross chief over Ukraine child deportations

Washington (AFP) – The United States unveiled sanctions on Tuesday against the head of the Belarus Red Cross, accusing him of being complicit in the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.

Since its invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, Russia has been accused of forcibly deporting thousands of Ukrainian children -- with Belarus's support -- from schools, hospitals and orphanages in parts of the country controlled by its forces.

Moscow has not denied transferring thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia, but claims it did so for their own protection.

The US Treasury Department said in a statement that the head of the Belarus Red Cross, Dzmitry Shautsou, had been sanctioned for assisting the Russian president's Children's Rights Commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, who has been accused of enacting the deportations.

Lvova-Belova is the subject of a recent arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for "the war crime" of the unlawful deportation and transfer of children from Ukraine to Russia.

Belarus Red Cross suspended

In July, Shautsou received fierce international criticism when he claimed that the Belarus Red Cross had been involved in bringing Ukrainian children from Russian-occupied areas of the country to Belarus.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies called on the Belarus Red Cross to sack Shautsou, and suspended the chapter as a member when it failed to do so.

Shautsou was among the 11 entities and eight individuals sanctioned by the US Treasury Department on Tuesday in a bid to ramp up the pressure on the Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko.

The Treasury's actions reaffirm its efforts to hold Lukashenko, "his family, and his regime accountable for their anti-democratic actions and human rights abuses, both in Belarus and around the world," the Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, Brian Nelson, said in a statement.