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Who imports Crimean baking soda to Belarus and is it legal?
Crimean baking soda in Belarusian shops
Baking soda produced by the Crimean Soda Plant recently appeared on the shelves of the Euroopt and Bigzz retail chains. The Ukrainian government has repeatedly stated that economic sanctions will be imposed against companies cooperating with Crimean enterprises. However, despite the warning, baking soda and Massandra wine of the Crimean production can still be bought in Belarusian stores.
Euroradio has looked into the case of baking soda imports from the occupied Crimea to Belarus and potential violation of the law, since Belarus has not officially recognized the Crimea as Russian.
There is no information about the supplier on the baking sode pack. We contacted the plant in Crimea, where they confirmed that they are cooperating with the Belarusian side, but wouldn't name the company.
“Baking soda is not the only product we supply to Belarus,” Venera Zavarzina, leading expert on foreign economic relations at the Crimean Soda Plant, told Euroradio. We also supply soda ash used in glass prodcution. We have been doing it since the Soviet times. I cannot name our partners, as this is a commercial secret. But you can find it out based on your glass-makers."
Representatives of the "Gomelglass" told Euroradio that they buy soda ash for their production in Bashkortostan. Alyaksandr Lyantsevich, deputy general director for the production of the Hrodna glass factory, says that soda ash is not brought from Crimea.
“We worked with the Crimean Soda Plant before the events [before the occupation of Crimea by Russian troops. - Euroradio],” the deputy director said. It was five years ago. Now the logistics are not very good. How do you bring soda ash from Crimea to Hrodna?"
At the Barysau Crystal Factory we were told that they also used to collaborate with the "Crimean Soda Plant" in the city of Krasnyy Perekop. But for more than a year, the Belarusian company has been idling, so supplies of soda from Crimea have been suspended.
Today, glass factory "Neman" works with Crimea
“We work with Crimea,” said Diana Tarashkevich, deputy director for the implementation of the Neman glass factory. “We work, but not as we would like to. We supply our glass products there.”
Employees of Minsk supermarkets, whom Euroradio asked about baking soda, could not answer the question of who supplies baking soda from Crimea to Belarus. But we managed to find out about it in the Navapolatsk Euroopt.
-- Why do you need it? they assked us there. We have trade relations with Russia.
-- With Russia, but not with Crimea.
-- And Crimea is not Russia?
-- Officially, Belarus did not recognize Crimea as part of Russian territory.
-- I see. We'll pull up the documents.
MART: the supplier must be indicated on the package
The Ministry of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade representative explained to us that the supplier is obliged to timely provide the consumer with the necessary and reliable information about the products offered.
"Information about the product, which is communicated to the consumer, must contain information about the name of the organization that imports goods into the territory of the Republic of Belarus for its subsequent sale," the official reply says.
"You have a question that you want a political answer to"
As Euroradio found out, baking soda is suplied to large hypermarkets of the country by the SMTB GROUP. Not much is known about the organization: it was registered with the tax inspectorate in July 2016. And that's all.
We called to find out whether they really supply baking soda from Crimea and whether they know about possible sanctions from Ukraine.
“We are suppliers,” they answer there. “You have a question to which you want a political answer, send us an official request.”
-- Where's politics in this?
-- Isn't it a political issue that Belarus did not recognize Crimea? The state accepts payments, and you are asking me such a question.
The State Customs Committee of Belarus, where Euroradio turned for clarifications, did not reply within 15 days provided by law to the question about the trade relations our country has with the unrecognized territory. The customs officers took additional time to prepare an official response.