In connection with the escalating Russian-Ukrainian sanctions war, Ukrainian border guards have apparently been instructed to put the squeeze on Russian goods headed for Moldova as well.
"Ukrainian customs isn't letting Russian goods into Moldova."
A long column of over a hundred trucks bound for the small former Soviet republic southwest of Ukraine is being held up at the Troebortnoe – Bachevsk crossing in northern Ukraine, some of them stranded there for nearly a week. With food and fuel reserves running low, many drivers (most of them Moldovans) fear that they will be forced to take the loss and go home.
"Our diesel is running out – it freezes in the cold, and blizzards have piled up half-a-meter worth of snow. We eat at our own expense, and I don't know how we will get home. If we have to stand here another two or three days, our money will run out. We'll have to leave the vehicles here and find a way home," Moldovan trucker Ion Vatavu told Publika.md.
"If we had been told, for example on the website of the National Agency of Transport, or on the Ministry website, that beginning January 10, transit would be prohibited, of course we wouldn't have even loaded up the trucks," Eduard, the owner of a Moldovan trucking company, complained.
The owners of other companies involved in trade between Russia and Moldova told the online newspaper that they are facing massive losses.
Last month, Kiev joined the Washington and Brussels-inspired economic sanctions against Russia, prompting Moscow to respond by banning the import of Ukrainian food products for six months. Kiev countered with an embargo against Russian food products, but the embargo is not supposed to affect the transit of Russian goods through Ukraine.
Acting deputy minister of transport Sergei Bucataru told Moldovan media that Ukrainian authorities "seem to be equating the ban on imports [to Ukraine] with a ban on transit [through Ukraine]. That is, they do not understand the difference, and that's a problem which the Ukrainian government has not clarified."
"According to the TIR Convention [the international road transport convention of 1975], Ukrainian authorities do not have the right to prohibit the transit of goods through their territory; the concept of transit is guaranteed by this agreement, to which both Moldova and Ukraine are parties," the deputy minister clarified.