top of page

“Grodno Azot” spoke out against Lukashenko’s regime

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

The Court of the European Union has rejected the claim and declined to lift sanctions against OJSC Grodno Azot and its subsidiary Khimvolokno. These companies were included in the fifth EU sanctions package against the Lukashenko regime in December 2021. Similar refusals were previously received by Minsk Automobile Plant OJSC, BELAZ OJSC, and Belaeronavigatsia.

Despite Lukashenko's attempts at various platforms and meetings to convince the Belarusian nomenklatura that "yes, we have a dictatorship, but we are united and glad that everyone supports the chosen course, and we don't care about any sanctions, they only make us stronger," the leaders of the sanctioned enterprises hold a different opinion.

This time, the director of Grodno Azot OJSC, Igor Lyashenko, showcased his feigned loyalty to the dictator by requesting the Court of the European Union to lift the imposed sanctions on both the parent company, OJSC Grodno Azot, and its branch, Khimvolokno.

In his application to the EU Court of Justice, Lyashenko argued that paying dividends to the state “should not be considered as support for the Lukashenko regime”. He emphasized that “state ownership does not compel enterprises to engage in political activities or endorse a particular regime, as their main objective is to run a profitable business”.

Bravo, Mr. Lyashenko. By acknowledging and officially documenting in the lawsuit that there is a regime in Belarus and that you are compelled to finance it, you have exposed the incorrect assessment made by the EU Council regarding who supports and finances the regime. Also, you provided justifications indicating that you do not support or finance Lukashenko's regime.

In his written statement, Lyashenko revealed that dividends were paid to the state budget in the amounts of “8,481,000 rubles in 2018, 34,200,000 rubles in 2019, and 6,835,000 rubles in 2020. However, no dividends were paid in 2021”, which conveniently coincided with the year sanctions were imposed on the company. They attempted to deceive by withholding dividends for the year of sanctions and used this as a basis to challenge the imposed sanctions. They promptly filed a lawsuit with the Court of Justice of the European Union on March 2, 2022.

It is worth noting that shortly after the imposition of sanctions in December 2021, the management of OJSC Grodno Azot initiated efforts to have the EU sanctions lifted. They organized a forced collection of signatures from the company's employees to appeal to the International Labor Organization, seeking the removal of Western sanctions. Not only did the EU impose sanctions on OJSC Grodno Azot, but the United States also reinstated previously suspended sanctions against the enterprise in April 2021. Additionally, in August 2021, Grodno Azot's director, Igor Lyashenko, became subject to American sanctions.

Igor Lyashenko
Igor Lyashenko. Source:

Once again, the director of OJSC Grodno Azot, Igor Lyashenko, appointed by Lukashenko, argued through his representatives in court that the company neither supports nor finances the regime. Their argument is based on the claim that despite being forced to pay dividends to the state, they are not responsible for how these funds are utilized, even if they are used to violate citizens' rights. The statement emphasizes that the company "has no control over the use of the funds it pays to the state." Lyashenko does not dispute the existence of an undemocratic regime in Belarus.

Furthermore, the management of OJSC Grodno Azot acknowledged the violation of citizens' rights in Belarus. In their arguments before the European Court, the applicants asserted that “they are not responsible for the Lukashenko regime's violations of human rights, democracy, the rule of law, and the repression of civil society and the democratic opposition in Belarus.”

Regarding the issue of the management of Grodno Azot's non-involvement in the repressions, the facts indicate otherwise. The court ruling stated that employees of Grodno Azot, including workers from the Khimvolokno plant, who participated in peaceful protests against the regime and engaged in strikes, faced dismissals, intimidation, and threats from both the management of Grodno Azot and regime representatives. Thus, the management of Grodno Azot bears responsibility for the repression of the company's employees.

Similar to the management of MAZ and BELAZ, the management of OJSC Grodno Azot is attempting to prove its non-involvement with the regime. However, they are doing so outside of Belarus, in Europe.

Therefore, it is natural that in February, the Court of the European Union in Luxembourg rejected the claim of OJSC Grodno Azot and Khimvolokno, seeking the lifting of EU sanctions. The Court acknowledged that the EU Council's assessment of the important and strategic position of Grodno Azot in the Belarusian economy, its status as a state-owned company, and its support for the Lukashenko regime was correct. Grodno Azot represents a significant source of income for the regime.

Lukashenko's associates failed to achieve the lifting of sanctions and will be required to cover all legal costs. Cooperation with these enterprises will remain prohibited for European companies, and their assets will be frozen.

Any involvement with the Lukashenko regime is considered toxic, and the consequences of such involvement are evident. It would be easier to reinstate those who were fired and provide dividends to those who have been repressed and to the employees of the enterprise, rather than transferring funds to the treasury of the Lukashenko regime.

Did Mr. Lyashenko believe that he would become an "persona non-grata" and prove to European authorities that he was not involved in numerous violations, thereby distancing himself from Lukashenko, who not only appointed him as the director of OJSC Grodno Azot but also as the chairman of the concern Belneftekhim and the Deputy Prime Minister? I think not. Perhaps he was more concerned about ending his career with dignity and respect. However, it appears that fate had other plans. Each person is the architect of their own happiness.

Grodno Azot preparing for a strike in 2020
Grodno Azot preparing for a strike in 2020. Source:

Perhaps the director of OJSC Grodno Azot, Igor Lyashenko, simply harbors a common grudge against Lukashenko. A resentment that stems from being placed lower in the financial hierarchy and receiving a significantly lower monetary reward compared to his colleagues.

In 2022, Lyashenko's income amounted to 127,831 rubles, despite holding the position of director in a strategically important enterprise in the Belarusian economy and being a former deputy prime minister. In contrast, Dmitry Korchik, the director of the management company OJSC Belarusian Metallurgical Plant, received 231,033 rubles in 2022. Even Alexander Novikov, the director of Gomselmash OJSC, earned 199,104 rubles in the same year. However, neither Korchik nor Novikov have disassociated themselves from Lukashenko's regime, at least not yet.

But, as they say, better late than never. Presenting facts that prove non-involvement in the regime and actually rejecting Lukashenko, especially outside of Belarus, is the right approach to regain lost markets, open new markets, ensure the efficient operation of their enterprises, and improve the well-being of workers. To be heard and accepted, it is best to take concrete steps to remove Lukashenko from power and avoid involvement in his criminal schemes. Do you agree with this, Mr. Lyashenko, Mr. Korchik, Mr. Novikov, and others?


bottom of page