Finland closes roads to Russia – Gazeta Kommersant № 52 (7253) dated March 28, 2022

The Finnish state-owned VR Group, which until recently tried to maintain rail communication with Russia despite sanctions, stopped it on March 27, both freight and passenger. As Kommersant found out, the reason is the British sanctions against Russian Railways: VR Group’s agreements with banks require it to “listen” to the decisions of the country’s authorities. Thus, the passenger service with Finland worked only three months after the stop due to the pandemic. In the ongoing freight traffic, the Finns refused to accept a significant amount even after the sanctions were imposed on Russian metallurgists and chemists.

At noon on March 27, the Finnish VR Group (the country’s railways) stopped accepting freight trains at all Russian-Finnish railway junctions. According to the letter of the company’s president Lauri Sipponen to the head of Russian Railways Oleg Belozerov dated March 26 (Kommersant saw the document), the reason is the sanctions imposed by Great Britain on March 24 against the Russian monopoly.

“The obligation under the VR Group to comply with these sanctions is based on financial agreements with banks,” the letter said. This obligation applies to the VR Group regardless of the fact that the VR Group is not registered in the UK or is otherwise not under UK jurisdiction. The text of the sanction indicates the purpose of freezing the assets of a company that has been sanctioned or violates them. Thus, the consequences of non-compliance with sanctions will be the actual blocking of our company’s activities by banks. “

On March 1, a week after the start of hostilities in Ukraine, VR Group suspended cooperation with Russian Railways, except for what is necessary for cross-border communication. However, the actual communication continued, and Allegro passenger trains from St. Petersburg to Helsinki also ran. His last flights took place on March 27.

Russian Railways confirmed the stoppage of Allegro, also noting the connection between the VR Group’s decision and sanctions. Passenger traffic with Finland was interrupted during the pandemic in March 2020 and resumed only in December 2021, but in the last full year, 2019, the volume of passenger traffic in this direction increased by 16%. Actually Allegro in 2019 transported 557.3 thousand. passengers, 15.7% more than a year earlier.

The cargo pandemic did not interrupt the cargo traffic. However, after the start of hostilities in Russia, the volume of traffic has decreased significantly. In particular, on March 14, after a number of owners of Russian metallurgical and chemical companies were included in the EU sanctions lists, VR Group informed Russian Railways that Uralkhim, Uralkali, Eurochem, Severstal and Severstal were suspended. Togliattiazot ”and“ Tomet ”and their vehicles, as well as the reception of goods in wagons owned by VTB Leasing, VEB-Leasing and VEB.RF (see Kommersant, March 14).

In a letter dated March 26, Mr. Sipponen called the decision to temporarily suspend freight and passenger traffic “forced” and “very regrettable.”

“I am confident that, as soon as circumstances allow, we will be able to continue our joint business immediately,” he wrote, addressing the head of Russian Railways Oleg Belozerov.

The volume of traffic from Russia to Finland in 2022 is more than 750 thousand. tons per month, says the head of “Infoline-Analytics” Mikhail Burmistrov, and the structure of transportation is dominated by coal, forest, oil and chemical cargo, as well as mineral fertilizers. Ore and metals are transported in significant volumes. In the direction from Finland to Russia, the volume of rail traffic is minimal, the expert said, and does not exceed a few percent of total imports, and cars return to Russia empty.

Natalia Skorlygina


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