Russia blocks booming suspicious coal exports to Ukraine via Belarus

Russia blocks booming suspicious coal exports to Ukraine via Belarus
The Russian authorities have been blocking exports of coal from its territory to Ukraine through the territory of neighbouring Belarus as the heating season starts.
By Sergei Kuznetsov in Minsk October 9, 2019

The Russian authorities has been blocking exports of coal from its territory to Ukraine through the territory of neighbouring Belarus, according to Ukrainian Ministry of Energy and Coal Mining.

"Yes, there is such information but there are no details," Hanna Dudka, spokesperson for the ministry told Minsk-based news agency BelaPAN.

Belarusian exports of anthracite coal to Ukraine jumped 340-fold year-on-year in 2018 to 102,200 tonnes, according to the nation's states statistics committee Belstat. In January-July, Belarus raised coal exports to Ukraine by 500-fold y/y to 1.2mn tonnes.

Some Belarusian coal trading companies said earlier this year that a large share of Russian coal imported by Belarus and then re-exported to Ukraine may in fact originate from the rebel-controlled areas in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

300,000 to 400,000 tonnes of coal was supplied to Ukraine through Belarus monthly, Ukrainian MP Mykhaylo Volynets wrote last week on his Facebook page. He said that Russian Railroads had refused to transport Ukrainian-bound coal to Belarus since the start of October. That raises the prospect of massive coal shortages in Ukraine during this heating season, he warned. Earlier this year, the Russian government restricted direct coal exports to Ukraine, prompting suppliers to start exporting it via Belarus.

"Russia wants to control [coal] flows, and trains [loaded with coal] used to go [to Ukraine] through Belarus uncontrollably," an unnamed Belarusian businessman familiar with the situation told BelaPAN on October 5.

Anthracite is used to fire many of Ukraine’s power stations, but is only mined in the regions now occupied by the Russia-backed separatist rebels and inaccessible to the rest of the country. Ukrainian power stations have been forced to import the coal from Russia, which is a major producer, as well as some small amounts from the US. The power stations can’t burn the regular coal that is mined in the unoccupied parts of Ukraine.

Kyiv-based independent broadcaster Hromadske alleged earlier this year that Belarus has exported to Ukraine anthracite coal that was originally mined in the rebel-controlled territories of the Donbas region, which were sent to Belarus before being rerouted back to the unoccupied Ukraine. There is no confirmation of this information from other sources.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Energy and Coal Industry Minister Ihor Nasalyk said in February that imported anthracite was not mined in the rebel-controlled territories. "I can say that it is definitely not from non-government controlled areas in Donbas," Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

The minister said that his conviction is based on agreements with consumers of thermal generation plants, who pledged not to purchase anthracite from the occupied Donbas, to conduct an analysis of the origin and routes of the imported anthracite offered to them. "I think no one will risk their business," Nasalyk said.

 

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