21 January 2018, Sunday, 17:08

Targets of new US  sanctions: who is who?

Belarusian Yury Charniauski is accused of selling arms to Iran and illegal drugs trafficking.

TM Services company

Charniauski is called the founder of TM Services, a Belarusian company hit by new EU sanctions. The US Department of State accuses the firm of violating the American law on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in relation to Iran, North Korea and Syria, Radio Svaboda reminds.

According to Arab Times Online, Yury Charniauski may be a key element in the criminal network of businessmen from the former Soviet Union. They are engaged in money laundering and illegal drugs trafficking. The Revolutionary Guard, Iran's elite military branch, supports the businessmen to overcome the financial difficulties caused by international sanctions imposed on Tehran.

According to the Kuwaiti newspaper, businessmen from Belarus and Ukraine own companies in Iran and other Arab Gulf states and establish commercial ties with other firms, including those in Europe.

On December 24, 2009, Charniauski was detained at the Bahrain International Airport for attempting to smuggle 500 grams of cocaine. He allegedly arrived from India and was on his way to Saudi Arabia. Charniauski admitted to the drug smuggling charge but later recanted his confession, the newspaper reports.

Charniauski was to stand trial on May 12, 2010, but it remains unknown whether he was tried. The Revolutionary Guard exerted all efforts behind the scene to seek his release before he admitted to the charge of money laundering and carrying out drug smuggling operations for the interest of the Revolutionary Guard over the years, Kuwaiti journalists say.

Charniauski was at large in 2011, which is confirmed by Reuters journalists. TM Services company again attracted close attention of the UN two years ago. Reuters then wrote “Belarus is becoming a key element in Iran's efforts to develop its SSM (surface-to-surface missile) and nuclear capabilities, especially with regard to navigation and guidance products, which are defined as dual-use.”

According to Reuters, Charmiauski tried to secure technology for his company TM Services from a Russian firm named Optolink to sell it to Iran. Charniauski spoke to a Reuters correspondent and denied he had any contacts with Iran. Optolink general-director Yuri Korkishko said that Charniauski tried to purchase an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) from Optolink, which Charniauski said was for Belarusian National Technical University. IMUs are a key navigation and guidance component for guided missiles, as well as aircraft, watercraft and spacecraft.

TM Services firm has a website in English offering unmanned aerial vehicles and control systems, navigation systems, satellite systems, nanomaterials, optical and laser equipment.

According to the information on firm's website, the company located in Minsk on Pershamaiskaya Street. When journalists dialled the number given on the website, they heard the premises belonged to SIT Group. “We don't have relation to sanctions,” a make voice said. “TM Services firm might have been there, but now it is SIT Group.”

Optolink, which is mentioned as a partner of TM Services firm on company's website, denies any partner ties with the firm. They say they once cooperated, but don't work with the firm now. Ukraine-based Arsenal company, which produces navigation systems, missile aiming systems, infrared seekers for surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles, also denies cooperation with TM Services.

KB Radar company

Design Bureau Radar is another Belarusian company hit by new American sanctions. It is also accused of violation of the American law on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in relation to Iran, North Korea and Syria.

“We do not comment anything in this regard,” journalists heard from a firm representative.

Under the statement of the US Department of State, Radar's subsidiaries Alevkurp and Volatavto are also subject to the sanctions.

“Radar made an attempt to sign a contract with Iran on selling air surveillance radars two years  ago,” Alyaksandr Firsakou, the senior researcher at Alevkurp firm, says. “Maybe it was a year ago. We were told Iran was under the UN sanctions ordered to stop contacts with them. Radar said 'yes'. That's all.”

Firsakou has his own opinion why the sanctions were slapped on Radar: “There was information that navigation and guidance of the drone landed by Iran was targeted with the help of ECM systems,” he says. “Radar informs on its website that it produces ECM systems.”

Iran reported about the seizure of an American UAV on December 4, 2012. The US denied the fact, but later Iran showed the captured drone.

Firsakou states the firm “did not have and has not contacts with Iran”. “We produce some components for air defence weapons. But they are used exclusively for defence,” he said. “These samples are not finished yet.”

“We don't understand the decision of the Department of State,” Firsakou says. “Radar did not found our firm. We just joined the holding. We don't deal with missiles. It funny, because Radar doesn't deal with weapons of mass destruction or cruise missiles too.”

According to Alevkurp's senior researcher, the firm “does not have any orders from the US government and doesn't buy anything in the US. We have all our partners in Russia.”

“I don't think Russia will fulfil the decision of the US Department of State. They know we don't have ties with Iran and our products will not be used for weapons of mass destruction,” Firsakou sums up.

According to Radar's website, the company was founded in 1974 for “resolving radar detection tasks”.

In 2011, the holding OJSC KB Radar was created.  Alevkurp and Volatavto firms also belong to the holding.

The Belarusian MFA called the US sanctions “unilateral”: “This is the standard practice of the United States. We don't see anything new in it. So, we just took note of the decision,” the Belarusian MFA said.