Belarus’ Secret Trade With East Ukraine Separatists
25 July, 2017

Belarusian companies are trading with the unrecognized separatist states in eastern Ukraine and violating Ukrainian law.

The companies often go through a Russian middleman to sell goods to the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DPR) and “Luhansk People’s Republic” (LPR), the Belsat independent television channel revealed in the first part of its investigation into the matter.

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“As a result, the scheme looks like this: The Belarusian company is in direct talks with a wholesale firm in the DPR or LPR, which directly supplies goods to occupied Donetsk and Luhansk. Formally, [the wholesalers] have a contract, for example, with a Russian company, which, in one way or another, is linked to separatists or Belarus,” Belsat reported.

The money ends up in the Russian firm’s account either through CMR-bank (the bank used for transactions between Russians and the self-proclaimed DPR and LPR), through banks in Russian-occupied South Ossetia, or simply in cash.

Separatist South Ossetia recognises the self-proclaimed DPR, and Russia recognises South Ossetia. Therefore, South Ossetia can transfer money through its banking systems from the ‘Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics’ to the Russian Federation.

Having arrived in the Russian firm’s bank account, the money for the goods is then transferred completely legally to the Belarusian factories.

Thus, the Belarusian enterprises are not breaking the law. However, they are violating Ukrainian legislation, which prohibits companies from delivering goods to regions of the country that are not under Kyiv’s control.

Twenty-five percent of products in occupied Donetsk are Belarusian, according to Belasat.

“Alcohol, cheese, frozen meat…Before the war, we never saw these Belarusian goods. Belarusian meat or beer?...Never! There wasn’t a channel for it then. Now the demand is very high. Russian products are inferior in quality and price,” one resident of occupied Luhansk told Belsat.

On July 21, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko visited Ukraine and met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, in Kyiv. Trade ties were among the topics the two leaders discussed.