Belarus opposition to Norway’s Yara: “Building a business on blood is not allowed in the 21st century”

Pavel LatushkoPavel Latushko next to Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya. Photo: National Anti-Crisis Management / Facebook
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Belarus’ National Anti-Crisis Management calls upon Norway’s politicians to stop business cooperation between Norway and the Lukashenko regime.

This article is part of Norway Today’s coverage focused on workers’ rights / human rights in the context of Yara International and Belaruskali.

Norway’s Yara International (an agricultural chemical company owned in part by the Norwegian government) is a partner of Belaruskali – one of the largest fertilizer producers in the world, and also one of the largest companies owned by the Belarusian government. Yara has been accused of a human rights breach for its business partnership with Belaruskali, which is owned by and presumably funds a dictatorship.

We’ve previously spoken to key stakeholders and workers from both companies in an article which you can read here. Yara and Norway’s Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Fisheries (which owns just over 36% of Yara) have given statements to Norway Today on the partnership with Belaruskali in this article. Belaruskali has not responded to us.

National Anti-Crisis Management (NAM) was created by former Belarusian minister Pavel Latushko as a complementary organization to Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya‘s Coordination Council. Now, Latushko and NAM are calling upon Norway to break off its business partnership with Belarus.

Putting things into context

Belarus has been much-talked-about in the media for over a year now.

The country was thrust into the international spotlight when protests broke out following its presidential elections of August 2020. The election’s announced results claimed incumbent Alexander Lukashenko won with 80% of the votes. Lukashenko’s win is widely declared fraudulent in the Western world.

Belarus is now back in the headlines after a passenger flight was diverted and forced to land in Minsk on May 23, 2021. The landing was forced by Lukashenko’s regime to arrest 26-year-old dissident journalist Roman Protasevich. This incident has been denounced by worldwide leaders, including Norwegian authorities.

Regarding the forced plane landing, Norway’s Yara spokesperson told Norway Today on May 28 that: “[Yara is] assessing this new situation and its implications.” Yara is nonetheless continuing its business relationship with Belaruskali at this time.

Former Belarusian Minister Pavel Latushko addresses Norwegian authorities

Back to National Anti-Crisis Management (NAM) and their call for Yara to break off its relationship with Belaruskali, which is a source of income for the Lukashenko regime. NAM is a sort of shadow government whose stated mission is a peaceful transfer of power out of Lukashenko’s hands and into those of a democratically elected leader.

NAM was formed in October of 2020 by Pavel Latushko. Formerly the Minister of Culture of Belarus and a UNESCO delegate, Latushko left Lukashenko’s government and spoke in favor of protesters in August 2020. Soon after, he joined the opposition movement. Along with leading NAM, Latushko is also a member of opposition leader (and rival candidate to Lukashenko) Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya‘s Coordination Council.

On May 28, Latushko shared with Norway Today the following message:

“We have said it before and we are saying it now – the Lukashenko regime is toxic, the only question is when the partners, who still choose money over the fates, health, and lives of people, will realize this.  

“This week everyone has realized that. We see a surge of support for the Belarusian people who have been fighting for their freedom for more than 9 months, we see the rejection of a large number of companies and institutions that no longer want to do business with the dictator. But we have not heard the voice of Norway. Also, we have not heard back from the 300 Norwegian members of parliament to whom we have each sent letters. 

“Nor have the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Trade, and Industry responded. Norwegian politicians do not see the horror of the repression in Belarus, and the fact that the dictator has already committed an act of international terrorism – the hijacking. 

“We are grateful for the support of the world community, and we are grateful to the mass media for making the voice of the Belarusians heard.

“We believe that Yara will understand that building a business on the blood is not allowed in the 21st century.”

NAM’s letter to Iselin Nybø, Norway’s Minister of Trade and Industry

On May 28, NAM sent a letter to Iselin Nybø, Norway’s Minister of Trade and Industry. Norway Today received a copy of it:

NAM
NAM

“Ms. Iselin Nybø

Minister of Trade, Industry and Fishery

Kongens gate 8, 0132 Oslo

postmottak@nfd.dep.no

As a Leader of the National Anti-Crisis Management, I am appealing to the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Fishery of Norway, in particular, to the Minister of Trade and Industry, Ms. Iselin Nybø with a request to take necessary measures in order to terminate all business relations, including activities held within current contracts and refrain from entering into any new agreements between Yara International ASA and Belaruskali JSC until full settlement of the political crisis in Belarus.

You are no doubt aware, that on the 23d of May the regime executed a hijacking of a passenger plane Ryanair with more than 100 citizens of 18 countries on the board with the aim of arresting Roman Protasevich, the journalist, who is now being tortured in the KGB prison and could face a sentence ranging from 15 years of imprisonment to the death penalty or murdered in custody like another activist, Vitold Ashurok.  

We wish to stress, that interception and forced landing of the international aircraft with more than 100 foreign citizens on the board under false pretenses using a military fighter by the Belarusian regime, knowingly false message about a bomb on the aircraft violate all international civil aviation rules and procedures, the Convention of International Civil Aviation and these actions are regarded by European politicians as an attempted act of international terrorism. 

Relations between Yara and Belaruskali went beyond the economic field encompassing matters of politics and diplomacy.  There are no reasons to doubt, that yield from Yara’s transactions with Belaruskali is evidently used for funding Lukashenka’s terrorist activities. In light of the above, we have to sound a note of caution – in case of the contract extension the Ministry of Trade as an integral part of the Norwegian Government and the main shareholder of Yara has to take a clear stand on continued cooperation with the terroristic regime.

In the light of recent events, we are compelled to appeal with the open letter due to the reason that the letters we had addressed to Yara’s management, the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Fishery went unanswered or we received a noncommittal response.  However, from Ms. Nybø’s interview to Norway Today we discovered, that “The state’s exercise of ownership is based on the division of roles and responsibilities between the owner, the board of directors and the general manager set out in company law, and on generally recognized principles and standards for corporate governance. The state has special attention to separating its role as an owner from its other roles. This and other principles followed by the state when exercising its ownership are described in the report “. In turn, we are convinced, that the Ministry of Trade as the main shareholder of Yara has the full authority to shape Yara’s key decisions.

Consequently, we would like to emphasize the fact, that during the last 9 months in the country, where the Norwegian company Yara makes business according to the aforementioned requirements established by the own government and the main shareholder at the same time, more than 35,000 citizens have been arrested and tortured. 4644 complaints of physical force were submitted to preliminary investigation bodies (according to a report by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet). To date, there are 421 political prisoners. Especially important to note, that among them there are Belaruskali employees. 

Actions taken by Yara within the business relations with Belaruskali didn’t prevent the management of the Belarusian company from dismissal of the 119 strike participants, initiating criminal prosecutions against many of them which have resulted in convictions and prison terms for taking an active stand on the issue of civil rights. Right now Belarusian authorities keep interrogating, torturing, and arresting strike participants with the only aim of preserving the existing contracts, i.a. with Yara.

Additionally, it should be noted, that the Strike Committee Co-chair Anatol Bokun, who participated in negotiations with Yara management on the contract termination and representative’s visit, has been arrested on the 8th of May and sentenced to 30 days of jail two days later. It’s very possible that during this prison term Mr.Bokun will be charged with another falsified criminal accusation. It’s also very possible that Mr.Bokun is now tortured in jail for his civic activity. 

Consequently, considering the above-mentioned facts it seems to be impossible for Yara to meet the expectations of the Norwegian Government and continue the business ensuring the human rights protection in the country, where the power is seized by the dictator, who was not recognized as a legitimate president by the whole civilized world, including Norway. Moreover, Yara is not able to protect employees’ rights of Belaruskali, which is one of the sponsors of Lukashenka’s regime.

Yara’s management decision to send its representative to Belaruskali seems to be irrelevant, especially now, when Mr.Bokun is threatened with several years of imprisonment and his wife and two kids are under the risk of being forced to leave the country. 

We are absolutely positive, that there are already enough facts collected by human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, Spring96, etc., and widely covered by the media to dispel any doubts about horrific repressions in Belarus. 

It’s worth noting that we understand the complexity of making this decision taking into account, that in the context of humanitarian catastrophe in Belarus Belaruskali offers the most favorable conditions for the partners, which allows them to attain the maximum profit and high dividends for shareholders. However, when Belaruskali employees are criminally prosecuted, it cannot be just a business. We believe, that you will not let Belarusians doubt your devotion to the European values and human rights supremacy.

Consequently, in the interest of the workers of Belaruskali and universally recognized human rights, we expect with high hopes, that the Ministry of Trade, as the main shareholder of Yara International ASA and the representative of the Norwegian Government would show their political will and would take all necessary measures in order to terminate all business relations with Belaruskali JSC.

We are absolutely positive, that there are already enough facts collected by human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, Spring96, etc., and widely covered by the media to dispel any doubts about horrific repressions in Belarus. 

It’s worth noting that we understand the complexity of making this decision taking into account, that in the context of humanitarian catastrophe in Belarus Belaruskali offers the most favorable conditions for the partners, which allows them to attain the maximum profit and high dividends for shareholders. However, when Belaruskali employees are criminally prosecuted, it cannot be just a business. We believe, that you will not let Belarusians doubt your devotion to the European values and human rights supremacy.

Consequently, in the interest of the workers of Belaruskali and universally recognized human rights, we expect with high hopes, that the Ministry of Trade, as the main shareholder of Yara International ASA and the representative of the Norwegian Government would show their political will and would take all necessary measures in order to terminate all business relations with Belaruskali JSC.”

Source: #Norway Today, #NorwayTodayNews

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