Russia’s cargo volume is falling sharply. The bridge between east and west is collapsing. Various epithets have been applied to the dramatic reduction of transit cargo.
There are several important reasons for the drop in cargo – Russia’s long-standing decision to build its own ports and divert traffic to them. And economic sanctions. About Ukraine and Crimea. This has made Latvia maneuver between politics and the desire to earn.
A letter sent by the Ministry of Transport to high-level Russian officials has become available to the program “Nothing Personal”. It asks for help stopping the fall in cargo. Former President Valdis Zatlers says that such a praying tone will not do anything in negotiations with Russia.
In October, the largest decrease in Latvian ports was for coal transported to the main coal terminal on the Russian Island in Riga. Of the planned average of 118 wagons, only 39 were received per day. In total, 850 wagons had to enter Latvian ports. Instead, the average daily indicator is 724. According to operative information, November could probably be the best month of the year, but it is still just over half.
The letter at the disposal of “Nekā personīga” shows that “Latvijas dzelzceļš” continues to look forward to Russia. Uldis Reimanis, Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Transport, as the head of the Russia-Latvia Transport Working Group, writes to his colleague in Moscow Yuri Petrov, who is also the Assistant Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation.
Dear Yuri Borisovich!
For many years, the fruitful co-operation between the Latvian and Russian railways showed good synergies in the transport sector. Latvian ports and terminals have established themselves as reliable and stable partners for cargo carriers of the Russian Federation.
In the letter, the Latvian Ministry of Transport draws the attention of Russian colleagues to the fact that there is a long bureaucratic procedure for cargo clearance. And they affect the volume of cargo dramatically.
The scheme is that customers place an order, then this list is processed by the Russian railway structure “Corporate Transport Services Center”, then the approval of the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Transport and again the final opinion of the Russian Railways.
Thus, in October, the Russian side did not coordinate 94% of the requested amount of coal cargo – customers wanted to receive more than 4,800 coal wagons to Latvian ports, but only 279. In November, 100% of the requested amount was not agreed, which means a complete stop of coal cargo delivery.
Number of coal railway wagons requested / agreed:
- October – 4832 requested, 279 agreed
- November – agreed 0
“In any case, an informal agreement had previously been reached between Latvia and Russia that in order to maintain the unified railway network infrastructure and the possibility to use reserve capacities, the Russian side will not disrupt the flow of cargo to Latvian ports,” the letter said.
It is clear from the letter that the management of Latvijas dzelzceļš, in contrast to promises to look for new suppliers elsewhere in the world, recently met with representatives of the Russian Railways to develop a new freight direction from Kaliningrad to St. Petersburg. “Latvijas dzelzceļš” has already made calculations of the project, coordination has started, but the Russian side has recommended to the Russian railway not to participate in it due to some political reasons.
Minister of Transport Tālis Linkaits (New Conservative Party) points out: “The management of Latvijas dzelzceļš has been in Kaliningrad and talked to the representatives of the Kaliningrad side about the possibilities to carry out transportation to the St. Petersburg direction through the territory of Latvia. We are interested in having such transport, so that our infrastructure is loaded, so we are doing our best through various channels to make this plan a reality. This is our common, it is the need of the Latvian state to ensure the operation of the infrastructure of “Latvijas dzelzceļš”. And we are interested in every ton of cargo that could come through Latvia or to Latvia. ”
“Yuri Borisovich, as co-chair of the Transport Working Group, I ask for your cooperation on this issue,” the letter said.
Former President of Latvia Valdis Zatlers says: “Prayers will not help. This is Russian policy. Russian policy was not formed yesterday and last year, but about 15 years ago. And it was clear that gradually less and less cargo will pass through Latvia and maybe not at all. If we humble ourselves, we will be humiliated even further. And no positive effect now for someone who is weak and prayed, something will be given, it will not happen. It’s not Russia’s strategy, it’s not Russia’s policy. “
“Nothing personal” is known to have been agreed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Latvian Embassy in Russia. None of the parties involved considers that Latvia’s approach is ambiguous.
Foreign Minister (“New Unity”) Edgar Rinkevich points out: “However, let us separate the political situation in Belarus, in Russia, which is our, say, discussions with Russia on history, on Crimea and on Ukraine, where we have disagreements. . Like the situation that developed in Belarus, where our position is clear. And from some practical issues to be solved at the level of the Ministries of Transport. I understand that at times I want to position each letter as two foreign policies. Well, there are no two foreign policies – we have, say, in our relations with Russia, the so-called two-way or two-approach principle – the first where we have questions of principle, there is also a position of principle. Where there is an opportunity to see how to work together, without violating these political principles. Of course, communication was, is and will be. However, I think we need to be balanced enough. Let’s not drive through the ditches. There are those who say that let us close all economic cooperation now – it is simply not possible. And others say – no, you know, all our political position has to be thrown out for business to roll. I don’t understand what we sometimes have in Latvia, that it is somehow difficult for us to drive in the middle of the road – to be proportionate, to be principled in matters of principle, to be practical, but not to carry from one ditch to another. ”
In an interview with TV3 News, Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tihanovska in Riga last week criticized Europe for failing to act and impose sanctions on the Lukashenko regime. It was Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who strongly condemned the imposition of restrictions on Minsk and said that Western countries were trying to “pretend” to be the judge of Belarus’s legitimate leader, who was “unacceptable in the modern world“.
“The most basic thing to start with is sanctions. We are, of course, grateful to all the countries that have joined our situation, but, sorry, we have three months to introduce a list of sanctions! In 2010, when the repression was not so terrible, there were more than 120. Understand? Now people are being destroyed, more than 18,000 have been detained. (…) I understand that now there is Covid-19, everyone has problems, but here we are talking about living people and their lives. This is the most important thing that can be a neighboring country in the 21st century. We expect bolder and more decisive steps from the European Union, ”says Tikhanovska.
“Nothing personal” is known to be another letter, most likely written by some businessmen working in the port. However, this has not been the case in the diplomatic corridors – the Latvian Ambassador to Russia has broken the parking brake.
“Yes, there have been different projects, there has been one project that I saw recently. If you saw it, then you could really say that the tower is not just praying. There, the tone was simply blatantly unacceptable to a sovereign state. But as far as I know, I do not prepare this project, even in public administration, ”says Rinkevičs.
In his turn, the Ambassador of Latvia to Russia Maris Riekstins points out: “I really do not want to comment on any projects that have stopped at some stage.”
Rinkevich says: “Because all sorts of ideas are circulating, there are some companies that, and entrepreneurs who think that political bowing, controversy and business will still be enough, are probably stuck in the early 1990s.”
Zatlers, for his part, states: “The only way is closer integration into the European Union. From Finland away to Poland, Germany and understand that all goods will move here. And this east-west direction, if at all. Preserved, let’s call it that. Not a conflict, but a frozen conflict. And when the opportunity arises, they will be able to restore everything. Because, however, we live in a market economy. And demand – supply is what gives us a vision of where to invest and how to develop our transport network. ”
Relying on one customer always leads to a crash at one point.
According to local media, Edvīns Bērziņš, who was dismissed from the position of the Chairman of the Board of Latvian Railways after the scandal in October, became the executive director of the branch of the transport service center of the Ukrainian state-owned company Ukrainian Railway (Укрзализныця). He was the one who led the development of a route for an experimental Chinese container train sent to Kiev two weeks ago.