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VR resumes cargo traffic to Russia

UK-based sanctions aimed at Russian Railways ended up not applying to VR, according to the company.

Cargo cars at Helsinki's Vuosaari Harbour, file photo from April 2020. Image: Ilkka Klemola / Yle

Finnish state railway firm VR announced on Wednesday that it was resuming cargo traffic to Russia, after suspending the shipments due to UK-based sanctions against Russian Railways (RZD) a few days ago.

The sanctions were prompted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but the Finnish rail firm said it received clarification from UK authorities that the sanctions do not apply to VR.

VR Group's President and CEO, Lauri Sipponen, said that the company has spent the past several days discussing the matter with authorities and banks in the UK about whether the sanctions applied to VR.

Although RZD is on the British sanctions list, they do not apply to the VR Group, with Sipponen saying that was why the firm resumed the route quickly.

"The war has created uncertainty. But as one of our customers said, these worries are small compared to the worries of Ukrainians," Sipponen told Yle.

"The specific interpretation of the British authorities and banks is that the sanctions do not apply to our operations. Therefore, we can continue with the important railway export, import and transit traffic while keeping the Finnish export industry running," Sipponen said in a statement.

"Sanctions are often imposed on persons and, through that, on consigners or owners of goods, and we will not transport anything that falls under the sanctions. Possible sanctions and additional restrictions are decided by the authorities and we always act according to their instructions," he continued.

The volume of VR Trainspoint's cargo loads amounted to 37 million tonnes last year, with Russian freight accounting for around one-third of that figure.

The decision to resume cargo services is not related to VR's passenger route to Russia, which was suspended on Monday. VR said its passenger service to Russia will be suspended until further notice.