Turkey abruptly stopped the transit of sanctioned goods to Russia this month as the European Union and the US pressure allies to support measures imposed over President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The government ordered a halt to transit of such goods via Turkey from March 1 in compliance with sanctions, said a senior Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The cargo clearance system in Turkey simply stopped working,” said Ekaterina Lazutkina, co-owner of Vendor Cargo, a Moscow-based door-to-door shipping, customs clearance and general freight company that works through Turkey. The customs system now blocks goods destined for Russia, she said.
Turkey has emerged as one of the havens for Russian wealth and a center for sourcing goods over the past year, benefiting from the personal relationship between Putin and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey’s exports to Russia rose to $9.3 billion in 2022 from $5.8 billion a year earlier, illustrating the difficulties the US and EU have faced in mustering a unified front against Putin.
Turkey’s stance is linked to the EU expanding sanctions on Russia, said Mustafa Boyacioglu, the chief executive officer of Istanbul-based customs brokerage Subasi, confirming the blockage. He said there had been no formal announcement nor a transitory period, triggering confusion among companies.
“We’re hearing that a solution could be to first ship the products to countries unrelated to sanctions, such as those in Central Asia,” Boyacioglu said by phone. “There shouldn’t be an issue with products that have been first imported to Turkey and then shipped to Russia, but we’re not even sure of that as the restrictions appear to be origin-based.”
Russian shippers still hope the situation will normalize, Valeriya Savenkova, commercial director at Moscow-based Transasia Logistics, which ships from Turkey, said by phone.