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“Far arc” of Lukashenko’s schemes

Pavel Latushka: Deputy head of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, Head of the Anti-Crisis Management, Ambassador

On November 29, 2023, Lukashenko traveled to the United Arab Emirates, announcing a series of meetings with African leaders. He stated, "You all must understand that this is a far arc of our cooperation, but this does not mean far countries. We have good relations with some of them, including trade and economic relations."

So, what are these trade and economic relations with the "far arc" countries, and who benefits from them? At first glance, it may seem that Belarus and its citizens benefit from these relations. However, this would only be the case if the Belarusian economy were "the economy of a healthy person" and not "the economy of a smoker."

Belarusian state-owned enterprises are supposed to supply their products directly to the markets of the Middle East and Africa and receive foreign currency for their exports. The profits would then go to the state and be redistributed among citizens through taxes. However, the reality is different.

State-owned enterprises do not directly supply their products to the "far arc" countries. Instead, they go through a mysterious private company called AFTRADE DMCC, registered not in Minsk or Shklov but in sun-lit Dubai. Consequently, the proceeds from the sale of goods produced by Belarusian state-owned enterprises do not benefit them. Instead, the funds end up in the accounts of this peculiar office, which is associated with notorious individuals such as Alexander Zingman, Viktor Sheiman, and, of course, Lukashenko himself.

As a result, Belarusian state-owned enterprises receive only meager returns after the revenue is funneled through this shell company. This is the fundamental principle of Lukashenko's system: Belarusians work hard to create goods and produce products, but it is Lukashenko and his associates who reap the majority of the benefits.

Therefore, sanctions primarily affect businessmen who profit the most from the sale of Belarusian products, including both natural resources and goods created through the mental and physical labor of Belarusians. Ordinary citizens, contrary to propaganda, are not the primary target of these sanctions.

One might wonder if imported goods from Africa and Asia satisfy the needs of Belarusians. Lukashenko often talks about establishing new production facilities in African countries and providing support and assistance, particularly in technology.

However, the reality is that Lukashenko, with his like-minded associates, engages in mining activities there, including gold, diamonds, and oil. These activities are not organized by the state or the Republic of Belarus but by private companies established by Lukashenko's trusted individuals. The proceeds from the sale of these resources do not benefit the budget or ordinary Belarusians but rather flow into Lukashenko's pockets, his family, and his inner circle.

This is the nature of trade and economic cooperation with the countries in the "far arc." So why did Lukashenko go to Dubai under the pretense of attending a climate summit? Does anyone genuinely believe he cares about environmental and climate issues? Lukashenko is skilled at creating such illusions. Throughout his decades of rule, he has been responsible for a series of environmental disasters, including the Svetlogorsk pulp and paper plant, the Brest battery plant, the Ostrovets nuclear power plant, and periodic issues such as discolored or foul-smelling water in Belarusian cities and waste discharges into rivers.

Lukashenko's visit to Dubai was not about addressing environmental and climate concerns. His goal was to sort out his ill-gotten gains, redistribute his financial flows, and maintain control over his numerous businesses in the countries of the so-called "far arc." These are businesses built at the expense of Belarusian citizens and to their detriment. Additionally, he sought to establish new schemes to evade the sanctions imposed on his regime.


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