Kyrgyz and Kazakh companies help Belarus and Russian wood dodge sanctions

ALMATY/BISHKEK/DEC. 20 2022 (The Bulletin) — Kyrgyz and Kazakh companies are helping Russian and Belarusian wood producers evade EU sanctions, anti-corruption groups said.

They detailed how supposed imports of wood from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan had jumped by 6,700% since the summer when the EU banned Russian and Belarusian imports.

“With prices for many wooden products skyrocketing since the EU brought in the sanctions, reporters found multiple companies that are openly offering to provide false documentation for Russian and Belarussian wood so their clients can illegally sell it in Europe,” the report said.

The report was produced by the Belarusian Investigative Centre, Lithuania-based Siena and a network of partners linked to the Berlin-based Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

Evidence is growing that despite government rhetoric and clampdowns, businesses in Central Asia and the South Caucasus are helping Russian companies skip around tough Western sanctions, imposed after the Kremlin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February.

The report said that most of the wood supposedly from Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan is shipped by truck into the Baltic states, Germany and Poland — routes heavily used by Russian and Belarusian producers previously.

Vygantas Paigozinas, the deputy director of Lithuania’s customs, told OCCRP that there were obvious tell-tale signs that Russian and Belarus wood was breaking EU sanctions.

“We find markings on packaging, extra sets of documents that directly show that the goods come from Russia or Belarus,” he said.

But Mr Paigozinas said that the wood smugglers were becoming more sophisticated and difficult to catch.


— This story was published in issue 532 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on Jan. 16 2023

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2023

« Back to newsdesk