Freight Transit Ban by Both Russia and Ukraine

During the weekend of February 14, Ukrainian ‘‘‘activists‘ began blocking Russian-registered trucks at the Ukrainian border.  On February 15, Russian authorities detained over 300 Ukrainian cargo vehicles and banned commercial vehicles from its territory in retaliation.  After the Russian announcement, the Ukrainian government officially halted the transit of all Russian trucking through its territory in response.  This recent trucking confrontation comes as Poland has also banned the transit of Russian trucking, as their bilateral transit agreement has not been renewed since it expired at the beginning of February.

Russia remains in talks with Polish authorities to reauthorize trucking through the resolution of the current disagreement over the number of licenses issued by Moscow.  These talks are underway in a formal setting and both countries are hopeful that an agreement will be reached.  The outlook for a quick resolution between Russia and Ukraine over this issue is dim, as it is the Ukrainian side who called for this transit ban and are committed to its continuation.  With the loss of this transit route for Russian trucking, Polish officials gained greater leverage as Russian truckers are faced with longer routes and increasing transportation costs.

The denial of Moscow‘s access to major shipping routes to Western Europe has caused Russian trucking traffic through the Baltic states to soar.  The Klaipedia International Ferry Terminal has seen significant congestion since the lapse of the Russian agreement with Poland.  Longer transit times will hurt Russian exporters at a time when the economy is already struggling under international sanctions and low energy prices.  Russia cannot afford to lose its access to the Western European market.  The Baltic states have gained unusual leverage due to these twin disputes.