In late February, Belarus and Russia signed an agreement on the transshipment of Belarusian oil products through Russian ports. The amount of oil is nearly 10 million tons for the years 2021-2023.
Not only Lithuania and Latvia, in general, may suffer from this, but also a specific person. Namely Alyaksei Chulets, a longtime partner of Belarusian oligarch Mikalai Varabey. Here's how it may happen.
I'm in the Baltics
Official Minsk threatened to divert its cargoes to Russian ports in mid-2020. Lithuania and Latvia were allegedly making "unfriendly steps," which is the official language for sanctions imposed for human rights violations. Despite the more expensive and lengthy logistics, the decision was made: now Belarusian fuel sent for export will travel as far as St. Petersburg.
Alyaksei Chulets and Mikalai Varabey were first mentioned together in connection to the Estonian company NT Marine, which in late 2019 unexpectedly received a quota for Russian coal supplies to Ukraine. De jure, Chulets is the sole owner of the company, but RBC linked the firm directly to Varabey.
Alyaksei Chulets owns the company Tintrade, which owns the Riga terminal B.L.B. Baltijas Terminals. Belarus has been exporting oil products through this terminal for several years. In the fall of 2020, Varabey's New Oil Company, which was given the status of a special exporter of oil products, set its prices including transportation costs through B.L.B. Baltijas Terminals.
Euroradio sent a request for comment to B.L.B. Baltijas Terminals, but the company declined to comment.
Tintrade has been linked to several offshore companies, the ultimate beneficiary of which is Chulets. At the moment, it is impossible to confirm the connection between any of them and Mikalai Varabey.
To make others afraid
If Belarus really decides to cut oil product deliveries via Baltic ports (or completely give up on them), this will deprive Chulets' company of some revenues. However, there are several nuances.
The state-owned Belarusian oil company can indeed comply with the political decision and ship its products to the port of Ust-Luga. The new oil company is not obliged to do so. But on March 10 there was scheduled bidding for fuel oil -- and namely through Russian ports.
Belarusian traders continue to use the Latvian port for now. There is information about the traders' plans to use Estonian ports for the transshipment of dark oil products.
What else is known about Alyaksei Chulets
Alyaksei Chulets (and possibly Mikalai Varabey) is linked with the business jet that is believed to have been used several times by Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his family. In any case, a Gulfstream G550 twin-engine business jet with the tail number EW-001PJ and the colors of the Belarusian state flag has flown the same route as Lukashenka or his sons several times.
Officially, the aircraft is owned not by the Belarusian state, but by Alyaksei Lysenkou's company Eolinus Beteiligungsverwaltungs. He is also director of the Russian company Ularus. As many as 99% of it are owned by the NT Marine mentioned before.
Is it easy to go against the business interests of a man who has such an airplane?