A member of the Belarus opposition movement urged the European Union on Monday to keep sanctions against a Belarusian state fertilizer producer, warning that lifting them would generate a $1.5 billion windfall for Alexander Lukashenko’s regime as it supports Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Pavel Latushka, a former Belarusian minister of culture who is now in exile in Poland, said that he fears the EU might be tempted to lift sanctions against Belaruskali, a producer of potash.
Latushka heads an opposition group, the National Anti-Crisis Management, which has been documenting what it alleges is Lukashenko’s participation in a scheme to deport Ukrainian orphans to camps in Belarus.
The team has been working to bring international attention to its findings in an attempt to stop the deportations and hold Lukashenko to account.
“Belaruskali is the firm that finances the deportation of Ukrainian children,” Latushka, who was sentenced to 18 years of prison in absentia in March by a court in Belarus, told The Associated Press.
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His appeal comes as EU foreign ministers were meeting Monday for informal talks expected to focus on sanctions against Belaruskali and the Belarusian Potash Company, which exports Belaruskali’s products.
“This is an opportunity for Lukashenko to generate at least one and a half billion dollars in revenue each year, which he will spend on the war,” Latushka said.
The group alleges that the Ukrainian orphans deported to Belarus undergo a process of Russification before being sent to Russia for adoption, something they say amounts to violations of the Geneva conventions against war crimes.
Latushka and his team are collecting evidence and bringing it to international organizations, hoping that the International Criminal Court will issue an arrest warrant for Lukashenko as it did for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The ICC in March issued arrest warrants for both Putin and his commissioner for children’s rights, with judges in The Hague saying that they found “reasonable grounds to believe” the two are were responsible for war crimes, specifically the unlawful deportation and unlawful transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia.