Exemptions mean Russian crude oil products still entering Estonia
While the European Union issued banned the import of some types of crude oil products from Russia at the start of summer, since it only comes into effect in a few months' time, companies in the sector have not yet reduced imports during the transition period.
However, a claim that Russian oil products have been reaching gas stations in Estonia en masse is a false one, a Tax and Customs Board (MTA) spokesperson says.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week issued a list of companies that had applied for exemptions to import those oil products from Russia which are still permitted. This does not mean all listed companies actually take advantage of that exemption, however, while neither the ministry nor the MTA) discloses which companies are doing so, in the interests of business confidentiality, ERR reports.
Külli Kurvits, head of the MTA's department of customs, however, did tell ERR that the import of such products has not fallen during the summer and following the sanctions' imposition.
"Unfortunately, it is not possible to disclose the quantities that have been imported into Estonia. This is for a very clear reason. Only a few companies have formalized their imports," she said.
Kurvits argues that individual companies can be identified, and the publication of volumes would therefore violate their right to trade secrets.
"The magnitude has been relatively stable during this year, which has been formalized into free circulation. If we look at the volumes of June, July, August, they are practically of the same magnitude. At the beginning of the year, the volumes were somewhat smaller," said the head of MTA's customs department.
Specifically, the exemption granted to their companies applies to the two commodity codes 2709 and 2710 (see here for a fuller explanation of these codes and their interpretation, in relation to oil imports from the Kremlin-allied Belarus - ed.).
"These categories include a great many different petroleum products. You could say hundreds or even thousands of different commodities. So such a generalization and conclusion that oil and gasoline are bring brought into Estonia cannot be made. We can confirm that these goods have not been brought to gas stations," Kurvits went on.
Instead, the goods will be re-exported from here, while some of them will be reprocessed in Estonia first. This has also happened in the past, and as a rule, companies continue to import until the last possible moment.
"When the transition period is over, these goods flows will really fall to zero. During the transition period, however, those goods that are permitted, will be imported. We could also give examples of wooden products, steel products here," Kurvits went on, meaning those can be imported from Russia as things stand.
Since the range of goods under the two commodity codes is that broad, imports are carried out by sea, rail and road alike.
One should add to that also the estimated hundreds of private individuals who have also purchased gasoline and diesel from Russia, when refueling their own vehicles.
This, however, is banned from February next year, or even earlier (early December) in the case of some categories of consumer fuel items.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte