Thousands of Ukrainian children taken to Belarus — Yale research

Thousands of Ukrainian children taken to Belarus — Yale research
More than 2,400 children from Ukraine aged between six and 17 years old have been taken to 13 facilities across Belarus since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, research published by Yale University said on Thursday. (AFP)
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Updated 16 November 2023
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Thousands of Ukrainian children taken to Belarus — Yale research

Thousands of Ukrainian children taken to Belarus — Yale research
  • The total number is estimated by some experts and organizations to be far higher
  • Russia has said previously that it is offering humanitarian aid to those wishing to flee Ukraine voluntarily and rejects accusations of war crimes

AMSTERDAM: More than 2,400 children from Ukraine aged between six and 17 years old have been taken to 13 facilities across Belarus since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, research published by Yale University said on Thursday.
Ukraine’s prosecutor general said in May that he was investigating the alleged role of Belarus in the forced transfer of more than 19,000 identified children from Russian-occupied territories since the conflict broke out, including to Russia.
The total number is estimated by some experts and organizations to be far higher.
The findings by the Humanitarian Research Lab at Yale School of Public Health, which receives US State Dept. funding, shared with Reuters are the most extensive to date about the alleged role of Belarus in the Russian relocation program for Ukrainian children.
Russia has said previously that it is offering humanitarian aid to those wishing to flee Ukraine voluntarily and rejects accusations of war crimes.
The press service of Russia’s Children’s Rights Commissioner, who oversees the relocation of children from occupied Ukraine, and Belarus’ foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the research.
Among the key findings detailed in the 39-page report were that children had been transported from at least 17 cities in Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions in what Yale researchers described as an ongoing practice.
More than 2,000 children Yale identified were transported to the Dubrava children’s center in Belarus’ Minsk region between September 2022 and May 2023, it said, while 392 children were taken to 12 other facilities.
“Russia’s systematic effort to identify, collect, transport, and re-educate Ukraine’s children has been facilitated by Belarus,” the report said.
“Russia’s federal government and Belarus’ regime have been working together to coordinate and fund the movement of children from Russia-occupied Ukraine through Russia to Belarus.”
Transports to Belarus through Russia were “ultimately coordinated” between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko, it added.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Russia’s Putin in March. It accused him and Russia’s Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova of the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine.
Taking children under the age of 18 across a border without the consent of a parent or guardian is prohibited under international humanitarian law.
Ukraine’s war crimes prosecutors have said they are investigating the deportations as potential genocide.
The Genocide Convention — a treaty adopted by the UN General Assembly in the wake of the Nazi Holocaust — specifies five acts that could each constitute the crime, if committed with genocidal intent, including forcibly transferring children out of their group.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry and the office of the prosecutor general, which oversees war crimes investigations, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Once in Belarus, children have been subjected to military training and re-education and Lukashenko approved the use of state organizations to transport children from Ukraine to Belarus and finance their transportation, the Yale report said.
It is unclear how many of the children identified by Yale’s research remain in Belarus.


Four men charged in US with transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons

Four men charged in US with transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons
Updated 7 sec ago
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Four men charged in US with transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons

Four men charged in US with transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons

WASHINGTON: Four men have been charged after the US Navy interdicted a vessel in the Arabian Sea last month that was transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons, the US Justice Department said on Thursday.
Two US Navy Seals died during the interdiction.


France expels “radical” Tunisian imam — interior minister

France expels “radical” Tunisian imam — interior minister
Updated 27 min 39 sec ago
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France expels “radical” Tunisian imam — interior minister

France expels “radical” Tunisian imam — interior minister
  • “The radical Imam Mahjoub Mahjoubi has just been expelled from the national territory,” Darmanin said

PARIS: France has expelled a Tunisian imam for “radicalism” and “unacceptable remarks,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in a statement on X.
“The radical Imam Mahjoub Mahjoubi has just been expelled from the national territory, less than 12 hours after his arrest. We will not let people get away with anything,” Darmanin said in a statement on X.


Navalny mother says being pressured into ‘secret’ burial

Navalny mother says being pressured into ‘secret’ burial
Updated 22 February 2024
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Navalny mother says being pressured into ‘secret’ burial

Navalny mother says being pressured into ‘secret’ burial
  • The Navalny case remained in the international spotlight with US President Joe Biden meeting the Russian politician’s widow and daughter, Yulia and Dasha Navalnaya, in San Francisco
  • Lyudmila Navalnaya, mother of President Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken critic, said she had been shown his body in a morgue in Salekhard

MOSCOW: The mother of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in an Arctic prison last week, said Thursday officials were pressuring her to agree to a “secret” burial for her son.
The Navalny case remained in the international spotlight with US President Joe Biden meeting the Russian politician’s widow and daughter, Yulia and Dasha Navalnaya, in San Francisco on Thursday.
Lyudmila Navalnaya, mother of President Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken critic, said she had been shown his body in a morgue in Salekhard, the nearest town to the remote prison, after several days of being refused access.
“Yesterday evening they secretly took me to the morgue where they showed me Alexei,” she said in a video released on social media by Navalny’s team.
But she said investigators wanted her son, who was 47, to be buried “secretly, without a chance to say goodbye.
“They are blackmailing me, they put conditions for where, when and how Alexei should be buried. This is illegal,” she said.
Navalny, whose death was announced last Friday, galvanized mass protests against Putin, winning popularity with a series of investigations into state corruption.
He was poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent in 2020, then jailed in 2021 after returning to Russia following a period of treatment in Germany.
He was sentenced to 19 years in prison on extremism charges and sent to IK-3, a harsh penal colony beyond the Arctic Circle known as “Polar Wolf.”
Western governments and Russian opposition figures have accused the Kremlin of being responsible for Navalny’s death on February 16.
Biden met privately with the Navalny’s widow and daughter “to express his heartfelt condolences for their terrible loss,” the White House said.
The White House also backed the mother’s campaign to retrieve Navalny’s body.
“The Russians need to give her back her son,” US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
Personal tensions between Biden and Putin increased after the US leader called his Russian counterpart a “crazy SOB” an election campaign event late Wednesday.
Putin responded with his sarcasm, referring to his recent remark that he would prefer the more “predictable” Biden over Donald Trump in the White House.
“He can’t of course say to me: Volodya, well done, thank you (for the endorsement), you’ve helped me a lot?” Putin said.
Hundreds of people have been detained in Russia in recent days at events to pay tribute to Navalny and his widow has vowed to continue his work.
Lyudmila Navalnaya traveled to Russia’s Far North the morning after Navalny’s death was announced, hoping to be able to see and retrieve her son’s body.
“They want to take me to the edge of a cemetery to a fresh grave and say: Here is where your son lies. I am against that.
“I want that for those of you for whom Alexei is dear, for everyone for whom his death became a personal tragedy, to have the possibility to say goodbye to him.”
She said she recorded the video because investigators were “threatening” her.
“Looking me in the eye, they said that if I do not agree to a secret funeral they’ll do something with my son’s body... I ask for my son’s body to be given to me immediately,” she said.
Navalny’s mother also said that investigators had told her they knew the cause of death but did not say what it was.
The Kremlin has refused to say when the body will be handed over and has branded Western accusations as “hysterical.”
Putin has remained silent on the death of his main political opponent.
Navalny’s spokesman Kira Yarmysh said that a medical report on the death shown to Lyudmila Navalnaya “stated that the cause of death was natural.”


Albanian parliament ratifies migration centers deal with Italy

Albanian parliament ratifies migration centers deal with Italy
Updated 22 February 2024
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Albanian parliament ratifies migration centers deal with Italy

Albanian parliament ratifies migration centers deal with Italy
  • First example of a non-European Union country accepting migrants on behalf of an EU nation
  • Accord has drawn comparisons with Britain’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda

TIRANA: Albanian lawmakers on Thursday ratified a migration deal with Italy under which Rome will build processing centers for migrants that it will send on to its Balkan neighbor across the Adriatic Sea.
It is the first example of a non-European Union country accepting migrants on behalf of an EU nation, and is part of an EU-wide campaign to clamp down on irregular immigration that has fueled a rise in the popularity of the far right.
The accord has drawn comparisons with Britain’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda in East Africa as a deterrent to further migrant journeys in small boats across the Channel from France organized by human traffickers.
Seventy-seven deputies in the 140-seat parliament voted in favor of the deal, announced in November, under which Italy will open two camps in EU-candidate Albania, one of Europe’s poorest and least developed countries.
“Albania is standing together with Italy by choosing to act like an EU member state,” Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama wrote on social media platform X following parliament’s vote.
“No country can solve such a challenge alone. Only a stronger, braver and more sovereign Europe loyal to itself can.”
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni replied on X, thanking Rama, Albania’s institutions and people “for their friendship and collaboration.”
One of the camps Italy plans to set up on the Albanian coast would screen sea migrants on arrival, and a second nearby would hold them while asylum applications are processed. Migrants would then either be allowed to enter Italy or be repatriated.
An Italian government source said Rome aimed to have the centers in Albania operational by this spring.
The deal has drawn international criticism from human rights advocates, and domestically from those who fear its impact on Albania’s security and on its financially vital tourist industry.
“This (tourist area) will not be the same again once the migrant processing centers are built,” said Arilda Lleshi, an activist who protested in front of parliament during the vote.
“We have reasons to believe that these (migrant centers) will be a security problem for the whole area.”
The agreement was challenged before Albania’s Constitutional Court by the main opposition Democratic Party, which argued that it broke the constitution by ceding sovereignty over Albanian soil to another country.
The Constitutional Court rejected the claims and gave a green light last month. While UN officials have criticized the Italy-Albania deal, the European Commission has said it does not appear to breach EU law as it falls outside its jurisdiction.
Rights experts warn it might be hard for Italian courts to promptly process asylum requests or appeals against detention orders from people hosted in another country, and lengthy procedures could put an unjustified burden on migrants.


Indonesia urges G20 countries to push for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

Indonesia urges G20 countries to push for immediate ceasefire in Gaza
Updated 22 February 2024
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Indonesia urges G20 countries to push for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

Indonesia urges G20 countries to push for immediate ceasefire in Gaza
  • FM Marsudi calls for increased support for Palestine through UNRWA
  • G20 foreign ministers gather in Rio de Janeiro as Brazil kicks off group’s presidency

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s foreign minister has called on G20 countries to push for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza as the group’s top diplomats gathered for the first ministerial meeting under Brazil’s presidency. 

Foreign ministers of the group of the 20 biggest global economies gathered in Rio de Janeiro Feb. 21-22 to address international issues and set a roadmap for work to accomplish ahead of a leaders’ summit in November. 

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Israel’s ongoing onslaught on Gaza was an “atrocity that goes beyond any plausible justification,” as she addressed a session on the G20’s role in the wake of global tensions.

 

 

“G20 must act now to end this crisis … First, push for an immediate and permanent ceasefire at any cost,” Marsudi told the participants. 

“This is the ultimate game-changer to stop the bloodshed, ease humanitarian suffering, and create a conducive environment for a fair negotiation toward a two-state solution.”

More than 29,300 Palestinians have died with over 69,000 injured during four months of Israel’s military operations in Gaza, according to the enclave’s health authorities.

Indonesia has long been among the Palestinian peoples’ most vocal advocates in multiple international forums, and is among more than 50 countries which are presenting arguments at the International Court of Justice this week in a case against Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

Indonesia’s stance is partly informed by seeing Palestinian statehood as mandated by the nation’s constitution, which calls for the abolition of colonialism. 

In Brazil, Marsudi also urged other G20 nations to avoid double standards and to work together to lower global tensions and prevent further escalation. 

“We cannot stand by and watch this horror unfold. We cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of civilians, including women and children. We cannot ignore our moral and legal obligations to protect human rights and uphold international law,” she said. 

 “We must not stand idly as Israel continues to destroy homes, hospitals, schools, and refugee camps … Now, more than ever, Palestine needs our solidarity and help.” 

She also appealed to G20 members to increase their support for Palestine, including through the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, which has suffered funding cuts after Israel accused some of its staff of being involved in the Oct. 7 attack by Gaza-based militant group Hamas. 

“We have to show the world that we are united and capable of being a catalyst for positive change to any crisis,” Marsudi said. “Let us show to the world that we, G20 members, are contributors to peace and stability.”