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Cablegate: Latvian Truckers Pay Russian Customs to End Dispute

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PP RUEHIK
DE RUEHRA #0010 0061446
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 061446Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY RIGA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6208
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS RIGA 000010

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELTN ECON PREL RS LG

SUBJECT: LATVIAN TRUCKERS PAY RUSSIAN CUSTOMS TO END DISPUTE

1. A brief flare-up of tensions between Russian customs authorities
and Latvian truckers appears to be headed for a resolution. The
Latvian Truckers Association has agreed to pay damages for alleged
evasion of customs payments when entering Russia. Association
representatives say the Russians subjected Latvian trucks to lengthy
checks at border crossings, causing days-long lines for Latvian
trucks trying to cross into Russia. Latvian customs officials
expect Russia to end the increased scrutiny of Latvian truckers on
January 11, when their payment of approximately 500,000 USD clears.


2. On December 8, the Russian Federal Customs Service announced
additional customs control measures against Latvian truckers.
According to press reports, they claimed that Latvian trucks were
failing to report at customs checkpoints once they were in Russia,
in order to avoid paying customs fees. Russia claims resulting
losses of approximately 1.5 million USD. The Latvian Truckers
Association reported that the additional inspections - for example,
individually calling the declared destination for shipped goods to
confirm orders - had created significant delays for entry into
Russia. The GOL claimed it had revoked licenses of offenders and
MFA requested an end to the tightened controls on December 16. At
its peak on December 23, the truck lines reached 1160 trucks and the
expected waiting time for crossing the border was 105 hours. The
lines have dissipated due to the drop of transport flow after the
holiday season. However, Latvian customs noted that there are
similar outstanding claims by Russian customs that could cause a
repeat situation during the course of 2010 if not corrected.

3. According to the Latvian Truckers Association, on December 29 it
transferred approximately 500,000 USD to Russia to cover the losses
created by Latvian truckers and is currently expecting reaction from
the Russian side. However, Russian official institutions are on
holidays until January 11, so there will be no change before then.
According to the Association, the delays have caused losses of
almost 4 million USD, and loss of long-term customers due to missed
deliveries. Although the Association sees this action by the
Russian side as "obvious blackmail," they feel that from a business
perspective they had little choice but to pay.

ROGERS

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