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It’s not just its actions in Crimea and Ukraine that is causing Russia to fall foul of the international community. Last week it extended its restrictions on the use of TIR Carnets for road hauliers to include the north-west region at the Finnish-Russian border.

While the Federal Customs Service (FCS) of Russia announced the extension, covering the Torfyanovka Customs office at the Vaalimaa border crossing on March 18, to start on March 20, the TIR was still being accepted on March 21, while Vyborg, Karelia and Murmansk Customs offices have not been restricted.

The north-west border is significant. According to Russia Supply Chain last year, more than 7,000 trucks pass through Finland’s border stations into Russia each day, of which some 85 to 90% use the TIR Carnet. With more than 2m annual crossings, it is the busiest point between the two countries, with the European road E18 passing through, and is just 202km to Saint Petersburg.

According to the International Road Transport Union (IRU), which is vigorously fighting the attempted ban introduced in parts of Russia in August last year, road transport operations costs have multiplied by up to 83 times. It estimated that hauliers are having to pay between $83 and $2,574 per vehicle for the new mandatory additional guarantees.

The union yesterday briefed the Russian press on the potential economic damage to the Russian economy, which saw GDP growth of just 0.3% in February. Russia’s Economic Ministry said on Monday that it forecasts net capital outflow in the first quarter of this year to be in the region of $65 to $70bn  – but “closer to $70bn”. In the whole of 2013 it was $62.7bn.

Russia is proposing an alternative system which has not been welcomed by European hauliers.

“We don’t think it is as robust as the TIR,” said Peter Cullum, head of international affairs at the Road Haulage Association. “It is run by two Russian companies, but we don’t know who the financial backers are. But the current restrictions are not good either for us or for Russia.”

The move by Russia follows not just one, but two Russian court rulings last month invalidating the country’s complaint against the TIR for unpaid debts of $650m. Both the Arbitration Court and Supreme Arbitration Court of the Russian Federation have ruled that the allegations made by the FCS used to justify the restrictions on TIR Carnets are “inconsistent with reality” and defamatory. On March 3, IRU, which administers the security payment system, released key documents on more than 4,000 cases of alleged TIR debts.

It said: “This confirmation of the absence of any debt from the TIR guarantee chain towards Russian Customs comes as no surprise, as we all know how efficiently the TIR System functions. The IRU has nothing to hide, which is why we are making this information available for public scrutiny, with no restrictions. We are now ready to explain these files in detail to any interested party, including to any Russian competent authority in order for these cases to be officially closed once and for all.”

The IRU claims that “on average there are less than 0.002% irregularities out of an average 1.5m TIR transport operations carried out per year on Russian Federation territory”.

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