Re-education under the guise of recovery: how Belarus helps Russia to take Ukrainian children from the occupied territories

Дата: 10 April 2024 Автор: Olesya Lantsman
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There is more and more information that the Republic of Belarus joined the deportation of Ukrainian children from the occupied territories of Ukraine. And even the analysis of open data suggests that the country’s leadership is involved in this process, not only its citizens. After all, it will not be possible to take children from the occupied regions without coordination with the officials. In addition, in every message of the Belarusian state media about the arrival of children from “Donbas for recovery,” the propagandists thank the self-proclaimed president Lukashenko for supporting this “initiative.”

In addition to the displacement of children, the country’s leadership participated in their militarization and assimilation. Children are placed in military-patriotic camps, and they are told about Ukrainian nationalists, who have created terror and have been continuing it for nine years, and good Russians who “save” everyone.

About who illegally is taking children from the occupied territories and how they are trying to re-educate them in Belarus, read the article.

Children from the Kherson region taken to Belarus. Photo: “Svetly Shliah”

An old story about “recovery”

Today, according to Belarusian independent mass media, there are up to 40 children from the Kherson region in Belarus who are called “Children of Donbas” and “Children of Russian” there. These are children from large families evacuated from the war zone, those who have no home left with their parents or one of their parents who died in the war, as well as children with disabilities, and orphans from Nova Kakhovka, Novotroitske, and Henichesk.

Pro-government resources in Belarus also report this.

Children from the Kherson region who were taken to Belarus. Photo: screenshot from the Belarusian pro-government website Sputnik

In general, children from the occupied territories were taken to Belarus “for recovery” even before the full-scale invasion. However, after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin for deporting children from the occupied territory of Ukraine, they began to do this more systematically and actively.

Screenshot from the website of the pro-government Belarusian agency “BelTA”

According to research by the American Humanitarian Research Lab at the Yale School of Public Health, as of October 30, 2023, at least 2,442 Ukrainians aged 6 to 17, including those from vulnerable groups, were deported to Belarusian territory.

However, the real figure may be higher, including those who have been displaced since 2015.

At the same time, both Russians and Belarusians have a narrative: they do not abduct children, do not move them illegally, do not violate the Geneva Convention and international law, but simply save, treat, and rehabilitate Ukrainian children who have suffered from the Ukrainian authorities.

Militarization and re-education

An analysis of Belarusian media publications shows that, in addition to visiting an ice rink, a swimming pool, a zoo, a dolphinarium, a circus, and the Dinosauria entertainment center, the program of Ukrainian children’s stay usually includes excursions to the Belarusian Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the security center of the Ministry of Emergency Situations. There, children from the front-line areas were allegedly offered to be distracted and not think about what was happening at home.  Instead, the servicemen organized an exhibition of weapons and conducted master classes on shooting.

Militarization of Ukrainian children by Belarusian security forces

In general, the militarization of children from the occupied regions of Ukraine is an indispensable attribute of the so-called recreation of children in Belarus.

Thus, the Belarusian authorities sent 35 children from the occupied Antratsyt to Mogilev “to learn how to evacuate in case of fire.” The state television footage of Belarus shows that Ukrainian children wear a patch with the Russian flag on their sleeves.

As the report of the Belarusian state propaganda agency “BelTA” shows, after such an “education,” Ukrainian children aspire to enter a tank school and defend “their country,” meaning Russia.

Excursions to museums, monuments, and memorials, symbols of pro-Soviet propaganda, are also organized for children. For example, they take children to the Brest Fortress.

The Belarusian Republican Youth Union – an ultra-nationalist organization whose goal is to promote “civil-patriotic education,” as well as the extremist groups “Night Wolves” and “Night Valkyries” joined the education of Ukrainian children in the Republic of Belarus.

In addition, some of the Ukrainian children studied in Belarusian schools, according to the Belarusian educational program, which includes learning in the Russian language, immersion in the space of the “Russian world,” involvement in the traditions of Orthodoxy, etc.


Paralympian and obsessed supporter of Lukashenko, Belarusian Oleksii Talai, plays first fiddle in carrying out the illegal and forcible transfer of children.

He tries to pass off the forcible transfer of children from the occupied regions of Ukraine to Belarus as humanism. Still, it is difficult to believe in the truthfulness and sincerity of this because Talai is an open Ukrainophobe who spreads Russian narratives. For example, about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, he says that it “was a forced measure, since Ukraine threatened to create nuclear weapons and sought to join NATO, forgetting about its neutral status.” He calls Ukrainian defenders “nationalists with swastikas on the body.”

Oleksii Talai (in the center) actively promotes the forcible transfer of Ukrainian children to Belarus. Photo: Sputnik

Belarusian independent mass media published a document confirming that in 2023 alone, the Talai Foundation took at least 1,958 children from the occupied territories of Luhansk and Donetsk regions. At the same time, according to the Belarusian state media, as of July 2023, over 3,000 children from Donbas were taken to Belarus during the two years of the Talai Foundation operation. Talai acted according to a prior agreement with Lukashenko:

“After receiving the consent and support of the head of state, we began to work out the possibility of recreation for the children of Donbas in Belarus.”

The self-proclaimed president himself says that the transfer of Ukrainian children is carried out with the consent of Lukashenko and with the permission of Putin:

“He (Talai. – Ed.) travels here and there, taking these children. He contacted me ten times. I went to Putin and said: let’s spend part of the union budget on these children. That’s how they started to bring them.”

The trail is lost

According to the report of the head of the National Anti-Crisis Management of Belarus, Pavlo Latushko, who provided the ICC with evidence of Lukashenko’s alleged involvement in the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children, there are cases when Ukrainian orphans were taken to Belarus, and then to Russia, and then their trail was lost.

According to the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, Dmytro Lubinets, there may be thousands of Ukrainian children on the territory of Belarus. At the same time, the Ombudsman believes they are there temporarily since Belarus is only an intermediate point on the way to Russia.


In Ukraine, Talai’s involvement is seen as one of many episodes in the context of the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children to the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine and their subsequent deportation to Russia via Belarus. Therefore, his activities are the subject of criminal proceedings.

Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, says that according to his information, the Russians are constantly compiling new lists of children who are currently in the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine, in particular in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, with the aim of further deporting them through the territory of Belarus to the Russian Federation:

“We are documenting a new systemic problem when the Russians are deporting Ukrainian children precisely through the territory of Belarus.”

However, there needs to be more information to state the degree of involvement of Belarus, its role, etc. Therefore, such cases must be carefully documented for proper qualification.

The human rights defender of the Regional Center for Human Rights, Kateryna Rashevska, believes that the actions of the agents of Belarus regarding the transfer of Ukrainian children for the purpose of Russification, political indoctrination, and militarization, at least in the case of children of institutional care institutions, have signs of deportation in the sense of the Rome Statute:

“Re-education” of Ukrainian children from the occupied territories in Belarus is not an evacuation necessary for urgent reasons related to the health or treatment of the children or their safety. After all, the competent authorities of Ukraine did not consent to such a transfer. It did not meet international humanitarian and human rights law standards.”

At the same time, the expert notes that in this war crime, Belarusian figures are not independent perpetrators but accomplices in the illegal policy, which became the basis for the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants for Vladimir Putin and Mariia Lvova-Bielova:

“This approach is supported by the mentioned cases of using Belarus as a hub for further deportation to Russia, in particular for forcible transfer to the families of citizens of the aggressor state or boarding schools. It should also be noted that most deportation programs are supported and financed by the Union State, which makes its leaders also accomplices in a war crime.”

According to Rashevska, the so-called “re-education” of Ukrainian children in Belarus is accompanied by large-scale and systematic violations of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Ukraine, Russia and Belarus:

“Among the violated provisions are the right to preserve identity, in particular citizenship, the right to education, non-discrimination, the use of one’s own culture and language, freedom of expression.”

Taking into account the level of organization of “re-education,” the number of affected children, their vulnerable situation due to both the existence of armed conflict and occupation, as well as their stay in institutional care facilities under the control of agents of the Russian Federation, these illegal acts reach the threshold of a crime against humanity:

“Finally, it is important to note that the illegal and forcible transfer of children for the purpose of political indoctrination and militarization has the characteristics of abduction as a serious violation of the rights of a child committed during the armed conflict.”

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