Our House is hereby presenting the report of the monitoring of the mass militarization of children in Belarus and preparation of Belarusian children to participation in future military actions on Russia’s side (probably, in Ukraine or in European countries). The present monitoring report and the information it contains are confirmed and verified by publications in governmental and non-governmental mass media of Belarus. Despite we have some non-public information, this monitoring report contains only the information confirmed by public sources.
The Belarusian regime has always perceived the citizens of Belarus in general, and Belarusian children in particular, as a renewable resource useful to resolve its social, political and economical problems. For example, till now child slavery is widely practiced in Belarusian prisons: children convicted under Article 328 for minor non-violent drug-related offenses are tortured into working at Lukashenka’s prison enterprises for as little as 0.10 Euro per month. Also, the regime is actively using the Decree 18 to discipline and blackmail, and also to force into slave labour, Belarusian single mothers, who got into difficult life situation. Moreover, the second side of Decree 18 and Decree 6 (according to which application of Article 328 has become more severe) is its usage for political repressions: it is actively used to blackmail and pressurize socially and politically active people protesting against Lukashenka and participating in anti-war actions. Here we can also speak about gender-oriented repressions: while the Decree 18 is more often applied against women (threats to withdraw or actual withdrawal of their children from the family), Decree 6 and Article 328 accordingly are mostly used against men and lead to longer terms of their imprisonment. Also, socially and politically active parents are often threatened that their teenage children might be framed under Article 328 and imprisoned.
However, we would like to draw your attention to the new function the Belarusian regime is using for: training future diversionists, reconnaissance operatives, and combatants on Russia’s side in the warfare conducted by Russia.
The Belarusian regime is carrying out intensive mass preparation of children for the participation in the warfare on Russia’s side in the future. Children are being prepared since the age of 6-7 in special military patriotic camps according to a special program, which includes use of firearms. Chechen instructors from the Russian Federation take part in those trainings. All military patriotic camps are under the control of the uniformed agencies of Belarus, first of all, of the Ministry of Defense. Intensive agitation and brainwashing of children with the ideology of the “Russian world” is going on.
Children from vulnerable, marginal groups of the population, orphans and children in socially dangerous situations are being trained in the military patriotic camps free of charge, at the expense of the state, because their use in military actions will not raise resistance of their relatives.
According to the statistics of the uniformed agencies, in the summer of 2022 over 18000 children underwent training in militarized patriotic camps, in which chidlren as young as 6 mastered their skills of firing from firearms and so on. Please be advised, that those camps are under the patronage NOT of the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Social Security, as one would expect, considering that vulnerable and unprotected children are concerned, but exclusively under the patronage of the uniformed agencies of Belarus: Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Emergency Situations.
Militarization of children in Belarus and preparation of children to the participation in the warfare on Russia’s side.
Description of the system of gratuitous military patriotic camps for orphan children and children from marginal families.
In the recent years, the Belarusian regime has created a widespread network of so-called “military patriotic camps” for Belarusian children. They exist in various forms and are subordinate to various state bodies. However, they fulfill the same task: get children and teenagers ready for war, promote militaristic culture and participation of children in future wars.
What is more, the intensity of such trainings has sharply and significantly increased after the Belarusian revolution of August, 2020, and then after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, 2022 (the Belarusian regime is a co-aggressor in the war).
On August 29, 2022, the deputy director of the Republican Center for Health Improvement and Sanatorium Treatment of the Population of Belarus Aliaksandr Tsai informed, that in summer 2022, 480 military patriotic camps were organized in Belarus through the offices of Ministry of Emergency Situations, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Defence, in which over 18 thousand minors went through the “health improvement program”. Considering that the approximate total number of children in Belarus as for the date of January 1, 2022, was 1 million 848 thousand, Our House is hereby stating: every 55th minor in Belarus (which approximately equals to 2%), in 2022 only, went through such militarized camps and, accordingly, was illegally involved in various armed groups. It should be separately stated, that in such militarized camps children are being foisted on the ideology of the so-called “Russian world”, including propagandist historical and cultural rhetoric.
In fact, such a camp is a nine-day long preparation of children to be full-fledged military reservists, legally formalized as a “nine-day-long health recreation for children”.
A lot facts confirm that.
For example, the strange number of days for the recreation. Standard summer session in a regular camp for children usually lasts for 18 days, sometimes there are sessions that last for 14 or 12 days.
The military training in Belarus in Soviet times after which the citizens got enlisted into the lists of the military reserve, included the following disciplines:
- Marching drill: the trainees learned how to form a lineup, how to march in ranks and out of ranks, how to fulfill drill movements.
- Firearms training: familiarization with the configuration of Kalashnikov assault rifles and hand grenades, studying their functional capabilities, learning the theory of fire and the skill of targeting. Practical shooting in a shooting range.
- Tactical training: familiarizing with the theory of combat conducting, tactical maneuvers and actions of soldiers in combat.
- Protection from weapons of mass destruction: familiarization with personal protective equipment and rules of their use. Studying chemical reconnaissance means. Familiarization with destructive factors of weapons of mass destruction.
- Cursory study of the fundamentals of civil defense.
- Medical training: cursory study of providing medical care to injured and wounded.
- Charter studying: familiarization with general military charters of the Armed Forces of the USSR.
- Survey training: ground navigation, symbols on topographic maps, movement azimuths.
- Engineering training: development and camouflage of a position, digging-in, fighting holes, trenches, main types of mines and barriers.
Exactly nine topics. Please, draw your attention, that it equals exactly to the number of days of “recreation” in all the Belarusian military patriotic camps for children.
In Soviet times, before completing the Program of preliminary military training, Belarusian schoolchildren were taken to reservist trainings to a local military unit, where they got to know the daily routines of compulsory-duty servicemen, organization of guard and internal service, learned pieces of armament, dug individual weapon pits, did marching drills, learned elements of firing, tactical, physical and military medical training, studied personal, radiation, chemical and biological protective equipment, and had firing exercises.
In today’s Belarus that task has been assumed by military patriotic and other similar-type of camps for children. In fact, the network of such military patriotic camps in Belarus is a sign of the obligatory basic military or pre-military training modeled after the USSR and other post-Soviet countries, whose aim is to assure that children and youth acquire knowledge of military service and practical skills in the military affairs, which is a component of the mobilization capacity of the state. Essentially, it is militarization of children and youth and their future involvement to participate in a warfare.
Historical background of the appearance of the system and its connection with Soviet military patriotic camps.
First military patriotic camps and defense and sports camps for children appeared in Belarus in 2011 after the 2010 presidential election, resulting in mass protests against the falsification of the election results and the bloody dispersal of the demonstrations by Lukashenka’s enforcers.
Appearance of such military patriotic camps for children was regulated by the Order of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Belarus dated May 24, 2011, № 336 “On the approval of educational programs”, which contained an educational program for children who needed recreation, and Regulations on educational and health institutions, approved by the Ordinance of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Belarus dated July 19, 2011, № 89.
Chapter 4 of the Regulations, “Recreational camp”, and precisely paragraphs 35, 351, describe organization of military patriotic and defense and sports camps as implementation of a program of additional education for children and youth. It is also mentioned that a military patriotic or defense and sports program can be an additional program in a regular recreational camp. Also, the document establishes, that such camps are conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Belarus, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, the State Border Committee of the Republic of Belarus, the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Republic of Belarus with involvement of military personnel of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus or other military formations, i.e., they are under the patronage of the uniformed agencies of Belarus.
Initially, military patriotic and defense and sports camps for children in Belarus were exclusively day-time. However, later they were modified in large numbers and became round-the-clock camps, with military barracks daily routine, military culture and military discipline.
Military patriotic and defense and sports camps for children are often disguised as recreational camps of tourist and regional studies profile. In the “Methodological recommendations to help the organizers of the summer holiday in 2014” it was explained, that the basics of work of a recreational camp of tourist and regional studies profile should involve: acquiring independent forest life skills (survey training, orientation in unfamiliar terrain); creation of comfortable conditions during forest life; organization of tourist daily routine (mounting a tent, making a campfire, provision of food, etc.); rendering first aid during a hike; ground navigation; survival in various climatic conditions and in extreme life situations.
It is confirmed by the fact that in the year 2022, the National Centre of Environment and Local History participated in the preparation of the scientific manual on military patriotic education.
Decree of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus, dated June 2, 2004, № 662 “On some issues of health improvement and sanatorium treatment of children” (Decree of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus, dated January 18, 2013, № 43 ) in paragraphs 14 and 15 says:
- Recommend to local executive and administrative organs to provide funds in the budget for preparation of camps for summer recreational period, reduction of holiday package price to camps with round-the-clock stay for children of employees of budgetary organizations and for supplement up to full cost of holiday package for:
- orphan children and children deprived of parental care, independently from their foster care form;
- for disabled children, including those living in residential care homes for disabled children with special psychophysical development;
- for children of military personnel, officers and staff of the Investigative Committee, State Committee of Forensic Expertise, bodies of internal affairs, workers and employees killed (deceased) in the performance of military or official duties in Afghanistan or other countries where military operations have taken place (as well as of the persons missing in war zones), or in the performance of military service (in the line of duty);
- for children of military personnel, officers and staff of the bodies of internal affairs, emergency situation bodies and divisions, financial investigation bodies at the State Control Committee, perished in the performance of military service (in the line of duty), as well as deceased in the result of wounds, contusions, injuries or diseases directly connected to the specifics of the military service;
- for children of war-disabled (disabled due to a military injury), as well as children of the deceased war-disabled persons (disabled due to a military injury);
- for children from large and low-income families.
- Recommend to organizations financed from the state budget, and to organizations of the agricultural complex compensate to the employees the expenses of holiday packages to round-the-clock camps with funds derived from income-generating activities.
That is, the Belarusian regime is involving children, who are in a particularly vulnerable social situation, without parental care, children from families from marginal groups, from the lowest-income population groups, as well as disabled children with special psychophysical development, into in military trainings and paying for it, to prepare them for participation in military operations, and is also promoting militaristic culture and war among such children from particularly vulnerable groups.
As we know from the experience of the Russian army in Ukraine, it is young orphan men from depressed areas, from alcohol and drug addicted families, with special psychophysical development, from marginal families, without education and access to social lifts, etc., who became the basis of the Russian army in Ukraine, and exactly those who committed crimes against humanity there.
Organization of camps – system of organizing everyday life, military training and promotion of military culture among the children.
The legal foundation for that was laid down as far as in 1997 by the Order of the president of the Republic of Belarus 3365 dated December 12, 1997, “On some measures for patriotic education of youth” with the aim to hold military patriotic events with the pre-conscription youth, strengthen patronage links with military units, prepare young men to military service.
Currently, the majority of such militarized camps are being established at the premises of military units, border guards, Interior Ministry troops. Lukashenka’s decree № 160 dated May 4, 2022 “About development of military patriotic clubs” allowed creation of such clubs in all military units, which also partially resolved the issue of financing.
The document regulates activities of military patriotic clubs for children and youth in the territory of military units of Interior Ministry troops, armed forces, other troops and military formations, as well as in the places of deployment of emergencies bodies and units, in particular, the issues of implementation of the educational program in such clubs, use of educational and material resources, organization of catering, clothing and ammunition provision for the trainees.
“As the Deputy Interior Minister – Commander of the Internal Troops, Major-General Mikalai Karpiankou informed, “Today the round-the-clock military patriotic camps “Doblest”, “Patriot” and “Rodina” are working at the premises of military units 3214, 5448 and 3310”.
A typical example: at the premises of the military unit 3214 of the Interior Ministry troops the round-the-clock military patriotic camp “Doblest” (Valour) has been working (definitely in the years 2021-2022).
During the school vacations, “Doblest” is organizing a “recreation” for six sessions, in which schoolchildren from all the districts of the capital will participate. Children do marching drills, assemble and disassemble weapons, practice power moves, learn to to navigate the terrain. Every day the trainees learn combat training subjects of special forces units, practice to provide military medical treatment, master skills of firing airsoft weapons, air guns and firearms. They have regular classes on basics of life safety: the young generation should understand how to behave in one or another emergency situation. Besides that, they can familiarize themselves with the military machinery, standing on the weapons of the military unit and try their hand in hand-to-hand combat.
In just a few days children learned the marching step, built the simplest hiding spots, and learned how to provide first medical aid to the wounded. Children practiced to mount a tent and make camp fire without a lighter or matches. Also, schoolchildren learned how to navigate the terrain, looking for hidden secret objects.
- We know how to mount a tent and fire an airsoft weapon and air guns. Now we know how to make an army cot and learned the daily routine of a soldier;
- I was particularly impressed by firing a real tommy gun (7-year-old boy);
- Here we learn freestyle wrestling and medicine.
Age of children in military camps: from 7 to 14, that is, exactly the age period when children are particularly vulnerably to any propaganda, as they do not have critical thinking skills yet.
How to enroll to a camp:
To do that, parents who wish that their children attend such a camp, should file a written application in school or in the pre-school institution. The head of the department explained that not only children of the military personnel can get to a military patriotic camp, but all who want that. A parent should first contact the district administration to find out if there is such a camp in their own district, and if there is, write and application requesting to send the child there. All the necessary documents should be submitted to the executive committee.
Military patriotic camp “Forpost” (Outpost) was opened in Zavodskoy district of Minsk at the premises of the military unit 31802 of the 2nd Order of the Red Star engineering brigade. For nine days, schoolchildren from Zavodskoy and Leninsky districts of Minsk are going to take an intensive course of a young fighter.
Tasks of the camp: …Explosive packs and smoke bombs in action. The enemy explodes the road on which the column is moving. The vehicle has to pull over to the side of the road. Fighters of engineer-sapper division on a light-armored vehicle Drakon repel the attack. They set a specially trained dog on the diversionist who was reconnoitering our troop roots of movements. He is detained, but unknown object is found on the footsteps. It turned out to be an explosive. To avoid unpredictable consequences, the servicemen destroy the object with an overhead charge.
An opening ceremony of the military patriotic camp for children “Pribuzhye” was held at the premises of the command post of the 115th anti-aircraft missile regiment. In 2022, 90 boys in the age from 6 to 17 became the trainees of the camp.
“This year we will accept three 9-day sessions. In that time, the schoolchildren will not only familiarize themselves with the army life, participate in sport events, but together with the servicemen they will undertake basics of firing training and marching drill, learn to use personal protective equipment. The daily routine of the children will be close to the army daily routine.”
On October 2, 2021, military patriotic club for children “Rys” (Lynx) was open at the premises of the military unit 3214 in Minsk. The Deputy Interior Minister – Commander of the Internal Troops, Major-General Mikalai Karpiankou was present at the opening ceremony. Before that, Mikalai Karpiankou personally participated in the bloddy dispersal of the peaceful demonstrations in 2020 and is on the sanctions list of persons banned from entering the European Union and the USA.
Training of children in the club “Rys” is going to be quite flexible. It will involve marching drill, physical training, hand-to-hand combat. “Additional sections of firing (learning how to handle firearms) and medical training will be organized. Special attention is given to ideological education: visiting heroic places, studying the heroes of the country. On these moments the spiritual and physical basis of our children will be built. However, it is also important to protect the young generation from the harmful influence of the Internet and all hybrid attempts to penetrate their minds and subconsciousness.”
Karpiankou said: “Any boy, who gets in here, is going to leave a real spetsnaz at the age of 18.” The deputy minister also underlined, that the project is planned to be spread to military units of seven brigades of five separate battalions. “Military patriotic clubs will also be created there, and we will try to cover the upbringing of our youth as wide as we can”, – he concluded.
However, the clubs do not limit themselves to patriotic upbringing only. In the film ATN an example of the patriotism orientation taught to children is shown. A propagandist video from Russia, on which a small boy Liosha in a military uniform “is running out to salute the soldiers every time he sees a column of military equipment” was shown to the children trainees of the club “Rys”. The military equipment had the letter Z on it, of course.
The co-ordinational center of all that movement of military patriotic clubs is “Youth Patriotic Centre” at the premises of Kobrynsky fortification of the Brest Fortress, that includes 46 people. The “Republican Centre of Patriotic Education of Youth” is being created. The head of the Department of Moral and Psychological Support of the Main Directorate of Ideology of the Ministry of Defense, Siarhei Korneu, is responsible for that.
Representatives of the delegation of the Russian search movements in the Chechen Republic visited the Youth Patriotic Center on April 23, 2022. At the meeting agreements were reached for the search movement development and cooperation between children and youth patriotic clubs of the regions.
From April, 18 to April 22, 2022, at the premises of the branch of the educational institution “Brest State Regional Youth Creative Center” – the “Youth Patriotic Center’, the seventh training camps were held according to the program of military patriotic training “Pobeditel” (Winner).
Children yunarmeytsy form Pinsk participated in another, the eighth, session. Five-day long, round-the-clock camps included an excursion program, basics of tourism, borderline, firing training, historical-spiritual lecture in the garrison church of the Brest Fortress, as well as methods and rules of shooting from an air rifle and in a laser shooting gallery (АК-74 and PM).
The following associations are acting at the premises of the centre:
- Association “Yuny Razvedchik” (Young reconnaissance operative)
Children are recruited from the age of 13. Classes are held with usage of lasertag weapons of the last generation on the basis of load weight mockups of combat rifle armament. The trainees will obtain skills in the following subjects: fitness, marching drill, medical, firing, tactical training, orientation in terrain, topography and basics of survival.
Pedagogue of additional education: Yauhen Kaplich, tel. +375(29)244-09-84
- Association “Tourism”
Children are recruited from the age of 12. Participants of the association obtain skills of orientation in terrain, construction of a camp in the field, rock climbing, tourist sports.
Pedagogue of additional education: Natallia Markevich, tel. +375(29)228-46-79
- Association “Military History”
Children are recruited from the age of 10. The trainees have advanced studies of the history of their native land, enjoy hikes and excursions to fortified structures of Belarus. 2 and 3-day tourist hikes are made to the places of the most important histrocal events.
Pedagogue of additional education: Anatoli Radkevich, tel. +375(29)203-40-95
- Association “Rubezh” (Frontier).
Children are recruited from the age of 16. Main subjects: practical shooting and techniques of hand-to-hand combat. In the course of training self-possession, precision, stamina, dexterity, professional skills of rapid and safe handling of weapons are developed.
Pedagogue of additional education: Khodar Andrei, tel. +375(29)795-38-07
Different pubblic officials from different agencies state different numbers regarding the military patriotic camps for Belarusian children and teenagers. Here are some examples.
May 18, 2022. About 60 sport and patriotic camps are going to function in summer, said the head of the Department of Moral and Psychological Support of the Main Directorate of Ideology of the Ministry of Defense, Siarhei Korneu. According to him, various forms of organizing rest and health improvement of children are used, like daytime or round-the-clock stay in the territory of the military unit. “If there is no opportunity to organize a camp in a certain military unit, we are always ready to examine the opportunity to send our servicemen, military cadets, officers of military commissariats (to educational institutions, recreational centers, summer camps) to conduct that work, even if not round-the-clock, as many would like.”
July 29, 2022. Uladzimir Parkhomtsau, an official representative of the Interior Ministry troops of Belarus: “Only this summer 25 camps have been created in the Interior Ministry troops. 16 of them are round-the-clock.”
It’s not a rare case, when children come to our camps also for the second, and for the third year. For elder children, the camps clearly show what service is, what army is. So, when the question arises whether to serve or not to serve in the military, they certainly agree to serve.
In total, during the summer vacations in the Interior Ministry troops 20 military patriotic camps were organized, 14 of them were round-the-clock. Over 700 youngsters, besides basic military training, will undertake ideological, physical and medical training.
July 7, 2022. Belarusian children are taught to fire arms and “be patriots”. Interior Ministry troops have already open 17 clubs and 146 camps. They started talking about opening children’s clubs under the patronage of military units after the protests in 2020. Currently, there are 17 such clubs in the country, about 1,5 thousand children study there, and there are a hundred and a half special camps for children. It was told in the film “School of Patriots” on the TV channel “Belarus 1”.
- The Belarusian regime has started intensive training of children starting from the age of 6 for future participation in military actions; the training includes learning to use firearms, Chechen instructors are participating in the training. The main focus is done on orphan children, children with special psychophysical development, as well as on children from marginal families, as it is such children who do not have a proper supervision from their families and whose relatives will not oppose to the involvement of such children into military actions due to their absence or their belonging to a marginal population group.
- If the European Union does not take a number of decisive steps, then in 3-5 years in Belarus an army of professionally prepared diversionists, reconnaissance operative and professional combatants who know how to use firearms will grow, fanatics obsessed with the ideology of the “Russian world”, young men with no social ties and no families, but obsessed with the desire of “revenge”, “destruction of the Nazi”, “salvation of Belarus from “gayropa” (a combination of the words “gay” and “Europe” with pejorative meaning, used by the propaganda), and so on. Building walls on the border or other restrictive measures like visa bans will not stop that group, as they are initially trained to be diversionists. We must act immediately. Our House has worked out the strategy to counter that activity of the Belarusian regime; we are ready to discuss it with all the interested structures and organizations.
- As we see, only in the year 2022, over 18 000 children, starting from the age of 6, participated in military patriotic camps and underwent military training.
- Our House perceives such military training of children as a long-term strategy of the Kremlin for the next phase of war in Ukraine and, probably, in the territory of the European Union.
Our House appeals to the European Union and international human rights organizations to immediately start a serious campaign against involvement of Belarusian children in learning military affairs and against militarization of children, because it will be too late to do anything in 3-5 years.