VILNIUS - The transit of EU-sanctioned Belarusian fertilizers through Lithuania, suspended last year, has not in fact stopped, Siena, a Lithuanian center of investigative journalism, reports 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.
Arminas Kildisis, a businessman working in the fertilizer sector, says urea itself indicates a possible sanction violation as nobody in Belarus produces it except for Grodno Azot. Atvira Klaipeda has footage of a urea shipment within BKT territory.
Lietuvos Gelezinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways, LTG), Lithuania's state-owned railway company, admits that urea successfully crossed the Lithuanian border and was transported to Klaipeda its locomotives. As there was no trace of Grodno Azot in the cargo documents, the sanction alarms were not triggered.
"If the carrier, the consignor, the payer (...) and the product itself are not sanctioned, yes. They are exported, imported, transported across the border", Edvinas Kerza, LTG's business resilience director, told Sienna.
Siena's data shows that BKT is listed as a urea delivery point. Besides this terminal, several other companies in Lithuania, Belarus and the United Arab Emirates are involved in the cargo shipment. These include Rogera, a Kaunas-based company, Technospectrading, a Belarusian company, and Dubai's DP World.
BKT's administration does not deny that the wagons contained Belarusian urea, but it has refused to elaborate on the shipment on the grounds of commercial confidentiality.
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.