Lithuanian Railways will continue to transport Belarus potash for now
LTG expects to continue transporting Belaruskali's fertiliser despite the sanctions, because they only apply to U.S.-connected entities, the railway company's CEO Mantas Bartuska told a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday. "We have a contract with Belaruskali which expires at the end of 2023 ...
Landlocked Belarus uses Lithuania's Klaipeda port to export potash from state-owned producer Belaruskali, one of the largest potash producers in the world and Minsk's main foreign currency earner. The company was sanctioned by the United States in August, one year after a crackdown following a disputed presidential election which President Alexander Lukashenko said he won.
A ban on sales of potash kicked in on Wednesday after a four-month wind-down period. LTG expects to continue transporting Belaruskali's fertiliser despite the sanctions, because they only apply to U.S.-connected entities, the railway company's CEO Mantas Bartuska told a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday.
"We have a contract with Belaruskali which expires at the end of 2023 ... We cannot terminate it," Bartuska said. Lithuanian banks would not process Belaruskali payments due to sanctions, but the company paid in advance for railway services throughout December and a part of January, Bartuska told lawmakers.
Lithuania's Foreign and Transport ministries were notified by LTG before the company accepted the advance payment, he added. LTG receives about 60 million euros a year from Belaruskali. Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte told reporters on Wednesday that she expected the potash transportation "would not last for long", without giving further details.
"The United States is a strategic partner of Lithuania, and the decision is intended to lessen the financial comfort of autocratic regimes, which we agree with," she said. Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanoyskaya, in exile in Lithuania since August 2020, on Wednesday welcomed the sanctions as a way of pressuring Lukashenko's government to stop repressions and hold free elections.
"We expect the sanctions will lead to a halt in potash imports and transit until the rule of law is restored."
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