Turkish customs authorities are reported to have put a sudden stop to the transit transport of sanctioned goods to Russia and Belarus. Cargo that is sanctioned by the EU can no longer be shipped through Turkey if the destination country is Russia or Belarus, people from the industry said.

This update has been doing rounds since last week, although no official communication has gone out from the Turkish customs authorities. “There is no official announcement, or list of what can and cannot be transported”, explains Cankat Yildiz, Managing Partner at Middle Corridor Logistics, a logistics company in Turkey.

“This is what forwarders and brokers came to find out when the software system that is used to fill in the product to be shipped suddenly reported that the shipment of certain products to Russia and Belarus was blocked.”

Sanctioned or not?

Officially, products that are sanctioned by the EU cannot be transported to Russia or Belarus if they originate from an EU country. Consequently, the transit of these goods would be a breach of this sanction law. However, in practice Turkey has been the main gateway for the transport of sanctioned goods to Russia and Belarus.

According to the Moscow Times, Vladimir Putin signed a parallel import scheme with Turkey in June, which allows for the continued supply of sanctioned goods to Russia that were originally intended for foreign markets without approval from trademark owners and exempts such imports from import duties. The same source mentions that in August, Turkey had exceeded $738 million in exports to Russia in one month, an all-time record.

Sanctioned vs non-sanctioned

This practice is, at least at the moment, not possible right now. When using the TNVED code, which implies sanctioned goods under EU law, the software system does not permit the shipment, the industry reports.

What is not clear, however, is what else is on the list. “I have heard that it is about car parts and agricultural goods”, says Yildiz. This is nothing official, but the experience of industry colleagues. The rumor is that the list of sanctioned goods may have been expanded to include cargo like this. We are hoping to receive some clarity on this matter soon.”

Clarity or circumvention

Whether this clarity will be provided, is all but certain, as this would expose the practice of illegal shipments by Turkish transport companies. Rather, a way of circumventing the strict control of sanctions may appear, by clearing the customs of EU goods in Turkey, and shipping the same goods to Russia as Turkish cargo. Turkey is not subject to EU sanctions.

The EU is currently attempting to increase enforcement of sanction law. The sudden shift of practice by Turkish customs authorities could be seen as a result of this. The EU and other countries could impose sanctions on Turkey for aiding transport to Russia and Belarus.

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