New transit rules and attempts to "bypass"
Recall that after 1 in January 2016 entered into force on the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union, the Russian Federation introduced a new regime for moving Ukrainian products through the country. According to the new rules, the transit of Ukrainian goods can be carried out only if a number of requirements are met, among which is the transportation of goods in sealed cargo compartments. The introduction of new rules for the transit of goods is explained by the desire of Russia to protect the market from the appearance of smuggling products from EU countries. Initially, the Ukrainian leadership had no particular concerns about possible problems with the transit of Ukrainian and European goods through Russian territory. But already in the first days after the New Year it became clear that the new rules are a serious problem for the Ukrainian business.
One of the first to raise this topic was Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Trade Representative of Ukraine Natalya Mikolskaya. According to her, the goods began to return back to Ukraine, and the transit through Russia actually stopped working. Meanwhile, only in 2013, the volume of exports of Ukrainian goods transported through Russia to the countries of Central Asia and Azerbaijan amounted to 4 billion dollars, in 2015, due to the deteriorating political and economic situation in Ukraine, this figure decreased, but the same remained extremely significant - 1,5 billion. Otherwise, how to deliver Ukrainian goods to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and Mongolia through the territory of Russia is very problematic. As a result of the introduction of new rules, Ukraine immediately began to incur significant losses, which, of course, are in no way compensated by the patrons of Kiev - the United States and the European Union. If the ban on the transit of Ukrainian goods through Russian territory continues, every year Ukraine will lose up to 570 million dollars. Naturally, for an already economically weak Ukraine, this is a huge amount. However, initially the Kiev government could not fail to “shake its muscles.” Wanting to show that Kiev could well do without transit through Russian territory, a container train was sent from the Odessa region in mid-January to 2016. He was supposed to follow the bypass of the Russian Federation — through Georgia and Azerbaijan, then through Kazakhstan, to the final destination of the destination — the People’s Republic of China. The dispatch of the train was very solemnly arranged - it seemed to the leadership of Ukraine that a new way to do without Russia was found. However, the train was faced with a number of difficulties already at the exit. First, before the coast of Georgia, he had to overcome part of the way by sea transport. But when leaving the Bulgarian port of Varna, because of the storm, the train had to linger. Then the train was “lost” already in Kazakhstan and was late for two days. Well, as they say, “the first pancake is lumpy”, and the test drive still does not say anything. But the very length of the journey, the need to use maritime transport and overcoming the borders of several states at once make an alternative route twice as expensive as the traditional route through Russia. If transportation of one container from Ukraine to the border of Kazakhstan and China through Russian territory is estimated at 3900 dollars, then along an alternative route - to 7950 dollars. Naturally, entrepreneurs absolutely do not want to pay for transportation twice as expensive as before, especially if we consider that the delivery time for alternative ways is also increasing. However, how to answer Russia, in Kiev, they did not think long. And if the Russian measures fit within the legal framework, then Ukraine again decided to move on to the tried and tested methods - the so-called “civil blockade”.
Roadblocks on Ukrainian highways
Strikers of this blockade were made by several dozen people, among whom were former participants in the hostilities in the Donbas and activists of right-wing radical organizations. First, they blocked the movement of Russian trucks in the Transcarpathian, then - in the Lviv region of Ukraine. On the Kiev-Chop highway, in the area of the village of Nizhny Vorota, located near the border of the Transcarpathian and Lviv regions, the nationalists quickly equipped a classic military checkpoint. February 12 “posts” appeared on the roads in five regions of Ukraine - Transcarpathian, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Rivne and Volyn regions, later they were joined by four more regions - Zhytomyr, Chernivtsi, Vinnitsa and Sumy. For the action they even chose the screaming name - “Bear Blockade”. Since the branched structures of right-wing organizations, closely associated with the Ukrainian special services, began to work, they quickly began to receive information about the movement of trucks with Russian numbers. The walkie-talkies transmit information about the approach of Russian trucks, after which the activists step onto the highway and block the movement. It is known that in the day of February 12 only in the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine about 50 trucks with Russian numbers were blocked. Moreover, if Russian cars traveling to Europe are not allowed to pass at all, wagons traveling from European countries to Ukraine are allowed to pass, but on condition that they refuel in Ukraine. They are also advised not to show up on the territory of the country. The main demands of the nationalists, first of all - to their own government - to officially terminate the trading activities of the Russian Federation in Ukraine and prohibit the transit of Russian goods and trucks through the territory of the Ukrainian state.
Although the initiative of nationalists to block the movement of freight road transport with Russian numbers does not fit into the legal norms, it was almost immediately supported by a number of high-ranking Ukrainian officials. One of the first to support the action of nationalists was the governor of the Transcarpathian region Gennady Moskal. Recall that in the summer of 2015, Gennady Moskal spoke very impartially about the nationalists - the radicals - the reason was the demarche of the Right Sector banned in the Russian Federation in the city of Mukachevo. But after a few months, Moskal (it’s not easy, nevertheless, probably in Ukraine with that last name!) Forgot about the sins of the nationalists and preferred to welcome the blockade they had undertaken. He said that Ukraine is either trading with Russia or is fighting. And if Ukraine with Russia, according to Moskal, “fights,” then it should also block the possibility of movement of trucks with Russian numbers across the country.
Recall that the Transcarpathian governor Gennady Moskal has his own accounts for Russia. In the Russian Federation, Gennady Moskal is an unauthorized person - since in September, 2014 - July 2015, before being appointed head of the administration of the Transcarpathian region, the former police officer headed the Lugansk regional state administration. Sixty-five-year-old Moskal - retired police lieutenant general. A native of the village of Zadavrovka of the Zastavnovsky district of the Chernivtsi region, in 1975, already after military service in the army, Moskal graduated from the Lvov Special High School of Police of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs and began working in Chernivtsi police. Apparently, among other police officers Moskal was listed as the most promising - already in 1980. He was educated at the Kiev Higher School of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs, and in 1984, - at the Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR. After Ukraine gained independence, Moskal's career went uphill. В 1995-1997 гг. he headed the Department of Internal Affairs of the Transcarpathian region, in 1997-2000. - The Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine for the Autonomous Republic of Crimea with the rank of Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine. В 2000-2001 гг. Moskal was the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Dnipropetrovsk region, while also retaining the status of deputy minister of internal affairs of Ukraine. From June 2001 to September 2002 Moskal was the governor of the Transcarpathian region, then returned to the police service. В 2002-2005 гг. Moskal headed the State Committee of Ukraine on Nationalities and Migration, and from February to November 2005. He again worked in the police - in the position of the head of the criminal police in Kiev. From November 2005 to April 2006 Moskal - again the governor, this time - the Luhansk region. May 2006 to January 2007 He was the representative of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and from January to April 2007. - Deputy Chairman of the Security Service of Ukraine. From 11 April 2007 to 21 May 2007, Moskal served as Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine. В 2007-2014 гг. was a deputy from the block “Our Ukraine - People’s Self-Defense”. In 2014, heading the Lugansk regional state administration, Moskal was noted by a number of statements and measures against those residents of the region who did not support the coup d'état in Kiev. So, Moskal dismissed 48 heads of medical institutions of the Luhansk region, who refused to obey the Kiev regime. For the activities of Moskal in the Luhansk region, he is denied entry to the territory of the Russian Federation. Apparently, Petro Poroshenko put Moskal on the Transcarpathian region precisely as a former policeman, a "strongman" who was able to restore order in a troubled border region. In every way emphasizing loyalty to the Kiev regime, Moskal, and this time supported the nationalists. He said that Ukraine should "act adequately", apparently - in relation to Russia, which does not let in Ukrainian goods. An even more radical point of view than Moskal is the leader of the Ukrainian Svoboda party, Oleg Tyagnibok, who continues to assert that Russia is allegedly waging a war against Ukraine. Tyagnibok requires Kiev to immediately stop the transit of Russian trucks through Ukrainian territory and accuses the government of Poroshenko that it closes its eyes to the economic activities of Russia within Ukraine.
February 15 February, a group of activists of the Right Sector organization banned in the Russian Federation and veterans of the volunteer battalions who participated in the war in Donbas gathered in front of the building of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine in Kiev. The nationalists demanded from the Ukrainian government an official complete ban on Russian business in Ukraine. After the picket, the nationalists went to check the roads of Kiev for the presence of Russian trucks. The deputy from the Batkivshchyna faction Igor Lutsenko, who was present at the nationalists' actions, complained that the only thing that connects Ukraine to Russia is the consumption of Russian gas. According to the deputy, it is enough to reduce its consumption by 10-12 cubic meters and Ukraine will not be able to have economic relations with the Russian Federation at all.
However, official Kiev, having supported the blockade of Russian trucks started by nationalist organizations, is not in a hurry for a total ban on the transit of Russian trucks through Ukrainian territory. The reason for this is, first of all, in the existing agreement, according to which Russia received temporary quotas allowing transit traffic through the territory of Ukraine. So, even from the point of view of the Ukrainian legislation, with the permission of the regime existing in Kiev, Russian trucks pass through the Ukrainian regions on a completely legitimate basis. Secondly, Kiev is actively discussing how to more effectively put pressure on Russia in order to lobby for easing of the transit rules for Ukrainian goods through Russian territory. The blockade of Russian trucks on the roads of Ukraine in this situation is considered as an additional trump card. In which case, the dissatisfaction of the “Ukrainian citizens” Petro Poroshenko will trump in negotiations with Russia, seeking certain concessions. In addition, it is necessary to recall the initial causes of the conflict. Formerly, Russian waggons safely followed through the territory of Poland, but then the Polish authorities banned the transit of trucks. Then the Russian truckers had to follow through the territory of Ukraine - bypassing Poland. And now, considering the current situation, it turns out that the actions of the Ukrainian ultra-right are beneficial to the Polish government, as Warsaw shows Moscow that on the roundabout path Russian transport will face serious obstacles. Thus, Poland receives additional levers in the process of negotiations with the Russian side, and Ukraine acts as a “pawn” and a tool for implementing foreign economic and political plans. For example, for the Ukrainian entrepreneurs themselves, the actions of blocking Russian trucks are absolutely unprofitable. Politics - politics, and business - business. Any problems inevitably respond to the economic well-being of the Ukrainian population, especially since Russia has recently learned to respond promptly and firmly to similar demarches in its direction. As Deputy Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation Nikolai Asaul commented on the events, the main reason is the competition between Polish and Russian carriers for increasing their market share in the transit of goods from Europe to Russia and from Russia to Europe. When the Russian authorities decided to streamline the sphere of transit traffic and to improve control over the transported goods, the Polish side was indignant. The fact is that Polish entrepreneurs first often imported European goods to Russia, passing them off as Polish-made products, and thereby using the cargo transportation benefits that exist between Russia and Poland. The tightening of demands from Russia led to discontent of the Polish side, which demanded not to increase the fines and to increase the quota for permits for Polish drivers traveling through the territory of the Russian Federation. The Polish side is talking about 100 thousand. per year, whereas for the Russian side, the Poles, on the contrary, reduce quotas to 20 thousand.
The reaction of Moscow followed immediately
Ukrainian businessmen, who asked the nationalists to end the blockade of Russian trucks, were right - Moscow reacted fairly quickly. Already in the evening of February 14, 2016 became aware that Russia, in response to the blockade of Russian trucks in the western regions of Ukraine, stopped the movement of trucks with Ukrainian numbers on Russian territory. The public informed the Russian Ministry of Transport about this. And if, until the nationalists began the blockade of Russian trucks on the territory of nine regions of Ukraine, only 11-12 of February entered the Russian Federation without any problems 1038 of Ukrainian trucks, now the movement of cargo vehicles registered in Ukraine in the territory of the Russian Federation is suspended . Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev urged the government to consider the possibility of introducing such a response as a complete ban on all types of transport from the Ukraine on the territory of the Russian Federation. Opening the meeting with the vice-premiers of the Russian government on Monday 15 February, Dmitry Medvedev stressed: "As far as I know, some crazy people are trying to stop our heavy trucks." When Vice-Premier Arkady Dvorkovich announced that Russian trucks were stopped by members of the groups associated with the Right Sector movement banned in the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev replied: “Bandits, that is.” Medvedev spoke out quite clearly about the behavior of Kiev: ““ For everything that happens on the territory of Ukraine, the Ukrainian state is responsible, which, unfortunately, is not able to restore order. And the fact that some thugs stop wagons there, including using firearms weapons, means that there are extremist groups in power who either subjugated the state to themselves, or the state doesn’t react to them in any way ”.
For the time being, the “tops” understand each other and decide how to act in the future, ordinary truckers suffer from the actions of Ukrainian nationalists who have blocked roads. These are ordinary working people who perform their difficult and unpleasant work, as a whole. Among truckers are not only Russian citizens, but also a large number of Belarussian citizens working on cars with Russian license plates. Formally, no truckers delay - they can leave, leaving the truck with a load. But, of course, no one goes on foot - people are forced to be in wagons and wait for them to be allowed to pass in one direction or another. It is significant that activists do not give truckers not only to drive forward, but also to go back. Truckers cannot leave the waggons and go on foot - they signed obligations before the trip that they are responsible for the safety of the cargo. If the drivers leave the wagons and go home, they will have to pay damages to the firms. And the damages for an ordinary person are astronomical. Thus, Russian and Belarusian drivers turned out to be hostages of a complex political game. Solidarity with the Russian truckers was shown by their Transcarpathian colleagues - they are trying to explain to activists of nationalist organizations that Ukrainian drivers may also suffer on the territory of Russia if they respond. But the radicals are not inclined to listen to ordinary Ukrainians - businessmen and truckers, as well as to refuse to implement the conceived plan for a total boycott of Russian trucks.
Ukraine will lose from blockade
The question of the future fate of Russian trucks that were traveling through the territory of Ukraine was to be decided on 15 February 2016 in Kiev - at a meeting of the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers. And on that very day, it was reported that the Ukrainian government had decided to suspend the passage of Russian trucks through the territory of Ukraine. “They made a decision to suspend the movement of trucks of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine,” says the Ukrainian government’s Twitter page. Arseniy Yatsenyuk demanded that Russia resume the movement of Ukrainian transit cars, resume the movement of Ukrainian transit cars, accusing the Russian Federation of violating recognized WTO rules. That is, the Ukrainian government distorted everything exactly the opposite. Kiev blamed the current situation on Moscow - they say that Russia was the first to impose an official ban on the movement of Ukrainian truckers on Russian territory. About the fact that the blockade actually started Ukrainian nationalists in the western regions of Ukraine, Yatsenyuk and his colleagues chose not to speak. However, in reality, Kiev can hardly blackmail Russia with a ban on the movement of Russian trucks. The territory of Ukraine is not so large and, if necessary, Russian cargo can be perfectly sent in other ways. Ukraine has practically no possibility of cheap communication with Central Asia, China or the Scandinavian countries, bypassing the territory of the Russian Federation. Already, over 160 Ukrainian trucks are temporarily detained on the territory of Russia, while in Ukraine only 100 of Russian trucks en route to Russia are detained, and 500 trucks cannot enter Ukraine from Russia - they are carrying goods for European consumers.
Thus, contrary to the economic interests of their own state, the Ukrainian government has once again gone over the radical nationalists and neighboring Poland. Recall that as a result of the food and energy blockade of the Crimea, Ukraine suffered much more than Russia. The nationalists who organized the blockade of the Crimean peninsula deprived Ukrainian business of the opportunity to earn over a billion dollars a year. Ukrainian agricultural products have ceased to flow to the peninsula, and given that it does not enjoy special demand in the world, many Ukrainian agricultural producers are in a very difficult situation. Accordingly, the state budget did not receive significant amounts of taxes, and employees of agricultural enterprises did not receive wages for their work. For this, they can thank the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar nationalists who participated in organizing the blockade of the Crimean peninsula. Now the situation repeats itself, only with the blockade of the movement of Russian trucks on Ukrainian territory. But not only that stopping the movement of Russian truckers will lead to certain economic losses for Ukraine - it will further strengthen the understanding of Ukraine as a very complex and unpredictable partner in the transit of goods. The Ukrainian government, at the suggestion of nationalist organizations, itself creates for Ukraine the image of a little-managed and unstable territory, from which it is better to refrain from doing business. This is well understood by the more or less sensible part of Ukrainian politicians and experts. After all, it is obvious that the retaliatory measures by the Russian Federation and the blockade of trucks on the territory of Ukraine will have negative consequences for Ukrainian autonomy. It is through Russia that the transit of Ukrainian products to the republics of Central Asia, Finland and Norway, China and Mongolia takes place. To go round the territory of the Russian Federation, as we have noted above, is very problematic. The head of the Ukrainian Politics Foundation Kost Bondarenko drew attention to another interesting fact. The vast majority of products that are in trucks blocked by activists of nationalist organizations have long been paid for by European buyers. That is, in fact, it is no longer the property of Russia or Russian companies, but the property of those European countries or their companies where these products are sent. Accordingly, European consumers will soon have questions to the Ukrainian government - why does it not provide a safe and timely supply of goods for which money has long been paid? If the Ukrainian authorities cannot ensure the security of the delivery of the ordered goods across the territory of Ukraine, then Kiev may be subject to serious penalties. And they, according to the analyst, will hit not Ukraine, but Ukraine itself. It is to Ukraine that financial claims can be brought about the fact that the goods were not delivered to consumers in a timely manner.
On the other hand, Belarus and the Baltic states will turn out to be beneficiaries if the blockade of Russian trucks remains in place. It is through them that the main flow of Russian transport to the EU countries can be redirected. At the same time, the same Lithuania, being a member of the European Union, will not be able, in contrast to Ukraine, to detain vehicles following from Russia, since EU laws do not permit this. The danger for the Ukrainian economy lies in the fact that Russia and Poland will most likely sooner or later come to an agreement on new rules for transit through Polish territory. Then the flow of trucks will again move through Poland, and Ukraine will lose those financial revenues that were promised to it by the presence of Russian vehicles (fueling cars, food and driver services in roadside cafes and hotels). In addition, the Russian Federation may not lift the retaliatory sanctions against the Ukrainian motor transport, which will lead to even greater damage to the Ukrainian economy. The situation for Kiev is really complicated and the position of the Ukrainian government, which went on about nationalist radicals, has already been subjected to massive criticism from politicians and experts. Thus, the representative of the Opposition Bloc faction in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Yuriy Boyko, even compared the blockade of Russian trucks with a large-scale provocation aimed at undermining the image of the Ukrainian state as an international partner in the eyes of European countries. "Bear blockade" Yuri Boyko described as a blunder and a tragedy. The representative of the official authorities, Head of the State Fiscal Service of Ukraine Roman Nasirov, spoke no less vividly. He said that blocking Russian trucks on the highway by volunteers and activists, in fact, constitutes a crime and does not allow Ukraine to fulfill international obligations. According to the official, the result of blocking the movement of Russian trucks in Ukraine was the response of Russia to ban the movement of Ukrainian trucks. Nasirov expressed his conviction that the blockade was staged. Nasirov also noted that at present the Ukrainian Ministry of Economic Development and Trade and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are making efforts to resolve the current situation and ensure the implementation of international agreements. It is still unknown what Russian and Ukrainian diplomats will come to as a result of consultations and negotiations. Most likely, the situation with the blockade of Ukrainian and Russian trucks will still be resolved - no one wants to incur economic losses, even if that is the reason for an ideological nature.
What does the blockade mean for Russian consumers?
Most experts and analysts are convinced that the Russian consumer will not suffer much from the ban on the movement of Russian trucks through the territory of Ukraine. The fact is that Russian logistics companies have never occupied a serious position in organizing the transit of goods from Western Europe to Russia. Until recently, almost 50% of the flow of goods was delivered by Polish logistics companies. Approximately 40% belonged to Lithuanian and Belarusian logistics companies, and only 10% of shipments were delivered by Russian transport companies. In this situation, the load on the Belarusian and Lithuanian companies increases.
Obviously, Belarus and Lithuania will only benefit if Russia cannot transport cargo through the territory of Poland and Ukraine. Logistics companies of Belarus and Lithuania will receive the majority of orders from both European and Russian companies, which will increase their profits. On the other hand, many entrepreneurs have not been in a hurry to send their goods through Ukraine, since this country is not considered to be a stable and reliable partner. The “bear blockade”, which has turned into a “bear service” to the Ukrainian economy, will also play its role in further deteriorating Ukraine’s image in the eyes of Russian and European business. It is unlikely that the Russian consumer expects an increase in prices for food or other goods delivered from European countries. Most products were previously delivered by Belarusian and Lithuanian companies that continue to operate. A significant part of European goods goes to Latvia and Estonia and from there it goes to the Russian Federation - again, bypassing the territory of Ukraine. Thus, no serious consequences for the Russian market of Ukrainian nationalists or even official measures taken by Kiev will entail.