What Do We Know About the Russian Company That Is Pledging to 'Rescue Lebanon'?

Published July 7th, 2021 - 02:00 GMT
Beirut Blast 2020
Lebanon continues to suffer from disastrous economic collapse since October 2019. (Shutterstock: Ali Chehade)

For almost 20 months, Lebanon has been suffering an increasingly severe economic collapse, one that has been aggravated by the August 2020 blast that hit the Beirut port, destroying major parts of the Lebanese capital.

In recent weeks, Lebanese people have reported acute shortages of oil, water, and other basic commodities, in addition to the country's decades-old electricity crisis. Thanks to continued political divisions that are blocking any attempts to forming a new government in the country, in addition to the lack of management to rescue Lebanon from the deeply troubling situation, foreign entities are trying to present solutions and initiate reconstruction projects.

In addition to talks of German, Turkish, and Chinese ideas that have not continued, a delegation of Russian officials and businessmen arrived in Lebanon last week, to evaluate investment opportunities in the country.

While most reports hinted that more than one Russian business is interested in such plans, media sources have only named one business, which is Hydro Engineering and Construction.

According to official announcements, Hydro Engineering and Construction is interested in rebuilding the Beirut port which was destroyed during the massive blast that hit the area in August 2020, including the 50-years old grains silos building. It is also talking about reconstructing two oil refineries and two power plants across the country, in addition to projects to boost trade activity in the Tripoli port.

However, Lebanese local media and activists have expressed a sense of mistrust towards the Russian business, especially after some reports found out that Hydro Engineering and Construction was only founded on the 5th of February 2021, and that is owned by the huge Russian Stroytransgaz, known for being sanctioned by the US for its links to the Russian government.

Lebanese-based independent news platform Megaphone has linked the Russian business planning to "rescue Lebanon" to Russian-Syrian businessman Georges Haswani, who is said to have direct links to the Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Most fears of an approaching deal with Hydro Engineering and Construction suspect that it will introduce a deeper role for Russia and its regional allies in Lebanon, especially that Georges Haswani's name was often highlighted in possible involvement in the 2020 Beirut blast, besides a possible role he played in providing ISIS with cash in exchange for either protection for Russian-controlled facilities in Syria or for oil, according to Wall Street Journal reports in 2016.

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