Freight train in Belarus, source: Belarusian Railway

Russian Railways reduces transit to Poland due to sanctions

Russian Railways will partially suspend the transit of specific products through Belarus on the way to Poland. The company announced concisely a couple of days ago that “shipments of certain goods routed to Poland by transit via Belarus have been suspended”. However, this is no surprise since these products are subject to sanctions announced some months ago.

Despite EU sanctions coming into force since early March, the market sees them in effect now. This is due to the timeframe of the sanctions’ implementation, which allows some space for old transport contracts to be concluded. As a result, even though some products were theoretically sanctioned already, they could be transported until now. However, this is not the case anymore.

This is also the context in which Lithuania recently decided to suspend some rail shipments between Russia and Kaliningrad. Regarding the case of Russian Railways reducing transit to Poland through Belarus, it is unclear whether it affects products directed at the Polish or broader EU market or whether these products were directed to Kaliningrad via Poland.

All focus on the sea

Regarding Kaliningrad now and the first shockwave, after Lithuania suspended the transit of some import/export products, the situation seems not so dramatic. The first reaction of the Russian exclave’s governor was to underline that lost rail volumes could be easily substituted through sea transport.

Evgenia Kukushkina, Kaliningrad’s Minister of Infrastructure Development, confirmed this, saying to the Russian news agency TASS that only “30 per cent of sanctioned goods are transported by rail and that these volumes can quickly redirect to ships.” The shift of transport routes is already taking place, but it will be some time until Kaliningrad’s supply chain returns to normal.

In the meantime, Lithuanian officials work closely with the EU Commission to clarify how sanctions on transiting products should be implemented. This resulted from Moscow’s reaction mentioning that Lithuania violates international agreements with transit restrictions. Nevertheless, the decision of Russian Railways to partially suspend the transit of products to Poland seems to confirm Lithuania’s decision indirectly.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is editor of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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