Finnish public broadcaster Yle writes that Estonian state-owned rail transport company Operail is preparing to haul Russian nickel from Vainikkala to Harjavalta in Finland. The material is currently being transport by Finland's national rail carrier VR.
VR decided to end carriage of goods from Russia this spring over Russia's continued military activity in Ukraine. VR will be replaced by Estonian transport and logistics firm Operail, Yle reported.
Operail's Finnish subsidiary Operail Finland Oy has reserved railroad capacity between Vainikkala and Harjavalta that is home to Russian metal company Norilsk Nikel's Finnish factory.
Up until now, nickel coming from Russia has been transported to Harjavalta by VR.
Yle asked Operail whether the company plans to transport Russian nickel in the future.
"Operail has indeed reserved railroad throughput capacity on the Kouvola and Harjavalta lines, while no contract for its use has been signed yet," Madiken Oja, head of communications for Operal, said.
Operail's financial situation has deteriorated lately, with the company making a loss of €3.5 million in the first nine moths of 2022. Yle wrote in October that Operail was planning to pull out of Finland.
Operail CEO Raul Toomsalu said that the time is not right for leaving the Finnish market, Yle reported.
"The exit should not cause financial damage to the owner. The board of Operail wants to keep Operail Finland in shape until its departure," Toomsalu said.
Toomsalu: Topic hyped up
Raul Toomsalu told ERR on Tuesday that because Estonia has not ordered Operail not to move Russian goods, such activity will continue until Operail Finland Oy is sold. He described the topic as hyped up in Finland.
"It seems that this news has been inflated by the Finnish rail carrier. Other market participants are making the news because they were told not to move Russian goods," Toomsalu said.
"Our situation is that the owner has told us to pull out of Finland, and preparations are underway. We have come far in talks with interested parties, and we will be continuing the last two years' activities in Finland until the company is sold, offering services to customers and moving goods that are not sanctioned. I see no news here in terms of things being different for Operail," the CEO said.
Asked whether Estonia and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications have ordered Operail to end rail transport to and from Russia in Finland, Toomsalu said: "No separate instructions have come down for Finland because our plan is to pull out of the market. And it is better to do that by selling the company because closing a business requires loans to be repaid, obligations to employees and other additional expenses. The best option is to sell the business."
Toomsalu admitted that those moving Russian goods can easily become targets of anger in what is a polarized and angry world due to Russia's Ukraine aggression.
Russian nickel has not been added to the list of sanctioned goods yet. The Ukraine war and sanctions have not affected the activities of the Harjavalta nickel factory.
Editor: Karl Kivil, Marcus Turovski