The EU hit Belarus with a new round of sanctions on June 24 in response to the seizure of a Ryanair jet and subsequent arrest of two journalists on board. Here are some of the companies and industries with apparent links to Alyaksandr Lukashenka that are now restricted from trading with EU countries.
The manufacturer of oversized mining vehicles and low-profile aircraft “tugs” is based in Zhodino, just east of Minsk. BelAZ employs over 10,000 people. The company produced about 350 trucks in 2020.
The Potash Industry
Belarus is the world’s second-largest supplier of potash, the important fertilizer ingredient, after Canada. Nearly all potash exports shipped from Belarus currently leave from Lithuania’s port of Klaipeda, in the EU. Analysts say Belarusian potash exports are now likely to be redirected through Russian ports. The shipments are the main source of dollar revenue for Minsk's budget.
The vehicle factory, known mostly for its trucks and buses, employs about 15,000 workers. In 2019, the company reported a loss of nearly $200,000, while last year MAZ turned a meager profit of $56,000. Most Belarusian vehicle exports go to buyers in Russia and other former Soviet countries.
The latest round of EU sanctions restricts EU countries from trading with Belarus in goods used for "manufacturing of tobacco products.” That includes filters, papers, and machinery for making cigarettes. Belarus’s Hrodno Tobacco Factory produces millions of cigarettes each day. The unusually specific sanction would apparently allow licensed production and export of foreign cigarette brands to continue at the factory.
In earlier sanctions announced in June, the EU blocked any aircraft operated by Belarusian carriers from using EU airports or flying through EU airspace. Belarus’s national carrier Belavia has cancelled several routes for the foreseeable future. In late May, a flight to Spain was forced to turn around in mid-air and return to Minsk after pilots learned the plane may not be permitted to transit French airspace.
On June 24, the EU announced a halt on imports of various petroleum products made in, or exported from, Belarus. Crude oil is apparently excluded from the ban. Much of Belarus’s petroleum exports are refined from Russian oil.
The latest EU sanctions will also restrict trade in surveillance technology, limit access to financial markets, and place further restrictions on the sale of weapons.
Previous rounds of Western sanctions also hit companies and individuals closely linked to Lukashenka. Those earlier sanctions came after a brutal crackdown by Belarusian authorities following last years’ disputed presidential election, which the opposition and many countries consider to have been fraudulent and have not recognized.
Belarusian officials have ruthlessly detained and jailed thousands of protesters and opposition members since the August 9 election.