Saturday

9th Dec 2023

Lukashenko trying to outwit EU and Russia

Selling arms firms from yourself to yourself, labelling petrol as solvents then petrol again - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is trying to make a living while being squeezed by the EU and Russia.

Lawyers in the European External Action Service are wondering what to do about Belarusian oligarch Vladimir Peftiev's latest bid to avoid EU sanctions.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Putin (l) in Minsk: 'The very fact of my first foreign visit to brotherly Belarus reflects the special nature of our relations' (Photo: kremlin.ru)

Peftiev - Lukashenko's friend and alleged bag-man - is on an EU blacklist along with one of his firms, Beltekh Holding, which owns arms trader Beltechexport. But this week he sold his controlling stake in the holding firm to one Dmitry Gurinovich.

Beltekh Holding says Gurinovich is an alumnus of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration and part of the Russian presidential personnel reserve - a pool of people eligible to work in the Russian leader's chancellery.

He does not show up in the published lists of either body, however.

An EU diplomat told this website that Gurinovich in fact "used to be a former advisor or aide of Peftiev or maybe he still is."

He added that the sale is an attempt to evade EU sanctions: "Formally, if the company does not belong to the sanctioned person any more, it should be delisted."

A contact in the Berlin-based institute, the German Marshall Fund, said the transaction means "Peftiev actually sold the company from itself to itself."

Peftiev and three of his firms, including Beltechexport, already have four ongoing lawsuits at the European Court of Justice disputing EU claims that they feed Lukashenko.

Another Lukashenko-linked oligarch, Yuriy Chizh, in March got one of his companies, Belneftegaz, off the EU blacklist after Latvia intervened on his side.

According to Belarusian Tribunal, an NGO based in The Hague, Belneftegaz is part of a family of firms involved in a Russian oil scam worth $880 million a year.

Belarus imports Russian oil at domestic Russian prices. But if it refines it and sells it to Europe it has to pay Russia a duty of between $300 and $500 a tonne. The arrangement does not cover solvents and thinners made using the oil, however.

The NGO says Belneftegaz exports petrol labelled as solvent to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Netherlands, where it is bought by offshore companies linked to the Belarusian regime, re-labelled as petrol, then sold again to EU companies.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Lukashenko on Thursday (31 May) in his first post-inauguration trip, he told media: "The very fact of my first foreign visit to brotherly Belarus reflects the special nature of our relations."

But in reality, Putin's embrace is more dangerous for Lukashenko than the EU's cold shoulder.

Moscow is trying to strongarm Minsk to fully implement a "state union" which would reduce Belarus to a de facto province of Russia and make Lukashenko one of Putin's regional governors.

Kremlin loans to Lukashenko have already seen it take control of his main strategic asset - the pipelines of Belarusian firm Beltransgaz, which pump Russian gas to Poland and Germany.

Belarusian Tribunal noted that "Russian authorities [are] perfectly aware" of the solvent scam "but for some unknown reason they have ignored it. It is possible the fact of oil smuggling could be used by the Kremlin against Lukashenko in future."

Latest News

  1. How Moldova is trying to control tuberculosis
  2. Many problems to solve in Dubai — honesty about them is good
  3. Sudanese fleeing violence find no haven in Egypt or EU
  4. How should EU reform the humanitarian aid system?
  5. EU suggests visa-bans on Israeli settlers, following US example
  6. EU ministers prepare for all-night fiscal debate
  7. Spain's Nadia Calviño backed to be EIB's first female chief
  8. Is there hope for the EU and eurozone?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us