Belarus constantly works on schemes to circumvent sanctions – Lithuanian minister

  • 2023-02-21
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - The Belarusian regime is constantly working on schemes to circumvent the sanctions and there may be more of them, Lithuanian Transport and Communications Minister Marius Skuodis said on Tuesday after investigative journalists exposed a possible scheme to circumvent the existing EU sanctions on Belarusian fertilizer producers.

"Belarusian KGB officers are tasked with devising schemes to generate revenue for the regime, and they do so from morning till night. Every day, our institutions discover a new scheme to circumvent the sanctions," Skuodis told reporters in Vilnius on Tuesday. "Foreign companies are involved in these schemes and, unfortunately, so are Lithuanian companies."

"I certainly do not rule out that there will be more of these schemes because they are being created every day," the minister said.

In his words, the annual rail freight flow from Belarus, which stood at 17 million tons before the war, fell to under 4 million tons last year. 

"Before the war, we had a trade flow with Belarus, and the flow has remained relatively small, but still, as we see with fertilizers, as we see with timber, every time someone tries to drive a wedge," Skuodis said.

The transit of EU-sanctioned Belarusian fertilizers through Lithuania, suspended last year, has not in fact stopped, Siena, a Lithuanian center of investigative journalism, reported on Monday after it and its partners uncovered a scheme that may have been used to circumvent the existing sanctions.

Traced back to its only producer in Belarus, Grodno Azot in Grodno, urea continues to move by rail to the Klaipeda-based Biriu Kroviniu Terminalas (Bulk Cargo Terminal, BKT) that is partly owned by Belarusian state-owned company Belaruskali. Just like Grodno Azot, Belaruskali is also subject to the existing EU sanctions.

In cooperation with the Belarusian Investigative Center (BIC), Atvira Klaipeda and Kas Vyksta Kaune, Siena has uncovered that due to a sanction loophole, urea is still being transported by both trucks and trains and is crossing the Lithuanian border. As the existing EU sanctions apply to Grodno Azot and not to urea, other non-sanctioned Belarusian companies are named as its suppliers in official documents.

Last week, both LTG and the Ministry of Transport and Communications turned to the prosecution service to investigate the origin of the urea found within BKT's territory.