Russian embargoed products still flowing to EU, Czech media report

Russian embargoed products still flowing to EU, Czech media report |

Russian products under EU embargo are still flowing into EU countries, Czech investigative journalists revealed in Seznam Zpravy.

The story shows gaps in the enforcement of EU sanctions. The investigative reporter went undercover as a businessman interested in Russian timber and iron and was in direct contact with a Russian smuggler.

“I spent three months building the infrastructure. We bring goods by truck through Georgia to Turkey or by boat from Novorossiysk to Istanbul,” Russian smuggler Ernest Rochal told the reporter.

“In Turkey, we change the country of origin. All the Russian stamps disappear, and we whiten the company’s name. From Turkey, we then transport the goods to Bulgaria, to another of my companies. Then you buy from there. So, on paper, not from Russia, not from Turkey, but from Bulgaria. My man will do the full customs clearance,” Rochal told the reporter.

The smuggler also sent the reporter the documentation of the contract he had carried out in September 2022 when he delivered Russian timber to Poland.

He also admitted that he exports goods from the EU to Russia, specifically bulletproof vests and helmets.

European countries imposed sanctions on Russia shortly after the start of the invasion of Ukraine to cripple the Russian economy. However, the smuggling route described by the investigative journalists shows its limits.

The Financial Times managed to speak with another smuggler who said he bought European goods through his EU-based companies, then took the goods to countries sharing a customs union with Russia – for example, Kazakhstan – and then shipped the products to Russia.

However, smuggling goods should soon become more difficult. The Council of the EU in November 2022 agreed on adding the violation of restrictive measures to the list of ‘EU crimes’.

According to the Czech Justice Minister Pavel Blažek, this move is an “essential tool to ensure any attempts to circumvent these measures will be stopped.” The European Commission already presented a specific proposal which still has to be adopted by the Council and the European Parliament.

(Aneta Zachová |


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