The International Red Cross on Friday suspended the Belarusian chapter after its chief stirred international outrage for boasting that it was actively ferrying Ukrainian children from Russian-controlled areas to Belarus, The Associated Press reported.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies halted the membership of the Belarus branch after it refused to oust its leader Dzmitry Shautsou (also spelled Dmitry Shevtsov). He is accused of having breached the Red Cross’ standards of neutrality and integrity. The board of IFRC had given the Belarus Red Cross until November 30 to dismiss him.
“The suspension means that the Belarus Red Cross loses its rights as a member of the IFRC,” the Geneva-based international organization said in a statement on Friday. “Any new funding to the Belarus Red Cross will also be suspended.”
Shautsou, in a comment to the state Belta news agency, maintained that he went to the occupied areas in eastern Ukraine “to prove that children that undergo health improvement in Belarus return home safely.”
Last year, the Belarus Red Cross received nearly 1.7 million Swiss francs ($1.9 million) from the IFRC for services like HIV prevention, support for migrants near the border with Poland, “clown therapy” and help for people fleeing Ukraine. This year, the outlay has been more than 1 million francs.
Shautsou was seen publicly wearing military fatigues with the “Z” insignia of Russian forces, and he claimed publicly that he favored deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus. He also told Belarusian television that the Belarus Red Cross was actively involved in bringing Ukrainian children to Belarus for “health improvement” purposes.
More than 2,400 Ukrainian children aged 6-17 have been brought to Belarus from four Ukrainian regions that have been partially occupied by Russian forces, according to a recent study by Yale University. The Belarusian democratic forces say that Lukashenko and his officials should be held accountable for it.
The Belarus Red Cross denies having take part in the removal of the children from Ukraine, saying that the transfers were arranged by a Belarusian charity founded by state-backed Paralympic athlete Alexei Talai. Shautsou, however, in a report by a state TV channel was seen visiting the occupied Ukrainian region of Luhansk and saying that his organization took “an active part” in the transfers.
The Belarus Red Cross told The Associated Press on Friday that Shautsou will continue to run the group and that its board gathered on Friday to discuss financials and plans for 2024 “with the current situation taken into account.”