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Russian Truckers Suspended from Transport Union - 2002-12-17


The International Road Transport Union said it is suspending Russia from an agreement that speeds truck travel through Europe. The Transport Union said Russian truckers have been violating rules on customs duties.

The International Road Transport Union says, as of December 25, trucks coming from Russia will no longer be entitled to the privileges given to trucks from other countries that are part of the TIR system.

TIR is the French acronym for International Road Transport. Trucks from countries that participate in TIR do not have to go through normal customs procedures and are not subject to inspection when they cross from one country to another.

The head of communications for the International Road Transport Union, Guy Willis, said trucking companies based in Russia and trucks passing through the country will be excluded from TIR because of Russia's failure to prevent organized crime groups from illegally using the system to avoid paying customs duties.

"What appears to be happening is that organized crime is arranging the shipment of goods into Russia from abroad and then is effectively avoiding the paying of customs duties on those goods. Customs duties going into Russia are extremely high, so there is a big profit to be made if you can circumvent the customs duties," Mr. Willis said.

He said Russian authorities are doing nothing to try to collect the customs duties owed them from organized crime. Instead, he said Russian officials are going directly to the insurance companies that guarantee payment under the TIR system and demanding money from them. But he said insurance companies are refusing to pay the exorbitant sums demanded by Russian officials. Mr. Willis said the Russian customs claims it is owed some $60 million.

The U.N. Economic Commission for Europe, which works with the International Road Transport Union, said the suspension of Russia from TIR will have a negative impact on international trade between Russia and the rest of Europe. Trucking groups are predicting long traffic jams at Russian border posts. They say Russian and European transporters are likely to suffer huge losses.

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