Who in Belarus earns millions from Zelensky's 'Big Construction'?

Among the main beneficiaries are Mikalai Varabey and Lukashenka's Administrative Office / collage by Euroradio 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has started a project called "Big Construction." He has ambitious plans to noticeably upgrade the country's infrastructure in a short period of time. To put it simply, he wants to repair bridges and roads. And this costs a lot of money. 

You may (not) find it surprising, but Belarus also makes money on the Ukrainian mega-project. Here's how.

Millions made on bitumen

Most of Ukraine's roads are built with bitumen. Asphalt concrete roadbed is not as durable as cement one, but it is considerably cheaper. 

A lot of bitumen is needed. According to recent data, the Ukrainian market of bitumen in May grew by 50% to 154.4 thousand tons. Of this amount, 75 thousand tons is supplied from Belarus.

In May, the project "Schemes" noted that Belarusian oligarch Mikalai Varabey could become considerably rich on bitumen supplies. Possible income for 2020 was estimated at 320 million hryvnias ($12 million). 

Varabey earns from Zelensky's project in several ways. The first is by selling products of his own "Neftebitumnyy Zavod" (registered in Cherven District). The second is by reselling the products through the Ukrainian firm "Belkaztrans Ukraine", registered in the name of his son, also named Mikalai.

However, Mikalai Varabey is not the main beneficiary of Belarusian bitumen sales for "Big Construction." After all, in the first half of 2020 alone, more than $43 million worth of bitumen was exported from Belarus. Annual data, as well as information regarding the beginning of 2021, is not yet available. But even without them, it is clear that Varabey got just a piece of the "pie": a big one, but not the main one.

Administrative Office again

Lukashenka's Administrative Office is a real multi-profile corporation. It includes health resorts, construction, and real estate rentals. And, as you might have guessed, supplies of oil products. Including bitumen.

Belzarubezhtorg, which specializes in foreign markets, has a "subsidiary" in Ukraine -- the company BZT-Ukraine. Large volumes of bitumen go through this company. Accordingly, it earns money on them.