Viewing cable 09VILNIUS436
Title: RUSSIA HITS LITHUANIAN TRUCKING

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
09VILNIUS4362009-08-14 14:34:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Vilnius
VZCZCXRO2725
RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHVL #0436/01 2261434
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141434Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY VILNIUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3680
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 2708
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 000436 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ETRD ECON LH RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIA HITS LITHUANIAN TRUCKING 
 
SUMMARY 
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¶1.  (SBU) On August 3, Russian customs officials began giving 
additional attention to Lithuanian trucking firms' transport 
documentation, including Transports Internationaux Routiers 
(TIR) carnets, at Russia-Latvia border posts.  As part of 
this effort, Russian customs officials required that trucks 
registered in Lithuania be placed in a separate line at those 
border posts.  Difficulties have been experienced by 
Lithuanian trucks attempting to enter Russia from Belarus and 
Estonia as well.  The result has been queues of many 
kilometers and drivers waiting days to enter Russia with 
their goods.  Lithuanian and Russian customs officials 
reached an agreement on August 13 that will restrict the 
operation of 29 Lithuanian trucking firms whose predominant 
market is Russia, but, hopefully, allow less onerous access 
for other Lithuanian firms.  Nonetheless, Lithuanian trucking 
firms appear to have suffered significant economic damage. 
 
KEEP CALM BUT ASK WHY 
--------------------- 
 
¶2.  (SBU) Gytis Vincevicius, Head of Communications for the 
Lithuanian Carriers Association (Linava) told us that Russian 
customs was justifying its actions based upon 16 truck 
voyages out of a total of 51,150 in the first half of 2009. 
Vincevicius said that Russian Customs contacted its 
Lithuanian counterpart on or about July 24 to request 
additional information regarding the 16 truck voyages in 
question.  On 3 August, Linava began to receive reports that 
Lithuanian trucks were experiencing additional delays at the 
Latvia-Russia border.  On August 5, according to Vincevicius, 
Lithuanian Customs received a written explanation from its 
Russian counterpart describing why Lithuanian trucks had been 
targeted for additional inspection.  This was followed by 
additional reports of delays in Belarus and Estonia. 
 
ECONOMIC MOTIVATIONS? 
--------------------- 
 
¶3.  (SBU) The Acting Head of Lithuanian customs met with his 
Russian counterpart in Moscow this week and on August 13 
signed a protocol restricting the operation of 29 Lithuanian 
trucking firms into Russia. These firms are predominantly 
oriented to the Russian market.  Vincevicius said that of 
Linava's 900 members approximately 700 operate shipping 
routes to Russia.  He estimated that of the approximate 
20,000 strong Linava member shipping fleet, 10,000 trucks are 
used by firms that ship to Russia.  Of these 10,000 trucks, 
Andrius Kalindra, a Counselor in the MFA's Economic Security 
Policy Department, told us that approximately 1,400 trucks 
are operated by the 29 firms mentioned in the protocol. 
 
¶4.  (SBU) The signing of the protocol does not mean problems 
have ended for Lithuanian carriers, according to Vincevicius. 
He told us that the Russian Transport Ministry recently 
annulled the validity of second and third country transport 
authorizations previously issued to Lithuanian shipping 
firms.  Vincevicius estimated that this action, combined with 
reports of difficulty experienced by Lithuanian carriers in 
Russia, has resulted in the loss of contracts with Western 
customers shipping to Russia for approximately 200 Lithuanian 
trucking companies. 
 
¶5.  (SBU) Kalindra said transport accounts for 45 percent of 
the Lithuanian service sector.  Interlocutors have told us 
that 60 percent of Lithuania's GDP is tied to exports, with 
Russia being Lithuania's top trade partner when measured on 
an individual country basis. Russian trade is responsible for 
approximately 20 percent of Lithuania's trade turnover 
(imports   exports). 
 
¶6.  (SBU)  Vincevicius speculated that Russian motivations 
are solely economic. He said the Russian truck fleet is 
roughly the same size as that of Lithuania and the 29 firms 
involved have Russian subsidiaries.   Thus, if pressured, 
these firms might be forced to increase the size of their 
Russian operations.  Vincevicius added that the head of the 
Russian equivalent of Linava, Asmap's Moskvichev, previously 
held a position in Russia's Transport Ministry. 
 
COMMENT 
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¶7.  (SBU) While this latest Lithuanian-Russian crisis appears 
to be resolved, we expect continued speculation regarding 
Russia's motivation in cracking down on Lithuanian trucks 
seeking entry into Russia.  Despite Vincevicius's assertion 
that Russian transport interests are behind the crisis, many 
in Lithuania point to political reasons for the crackdown on 
 
VILNIUS 00000436  002 OF 002 
 
 
Lithuanian trucks.  Some have linked the Russian action to 
Lithuania's decision in late July to refuse entry to Modest 
Kolerov, a former aide to Russian Prime Minister Putin (news 
reports indicated that Russia subsequently had threatened 
retaliation).  Still others have speculated that Russia was 
testing the new Lithuanian president, Dalia Grybauskaite; 
however, Grybauskaite downplayed the possible political angle 
of Russian customs officials, calling for the issue to be 
resolved at the technical level.  In a conversation with 
Charge on August 14, Lithuanian independence leader Vytautas 
Landsbergis (now a member of the European Parliament) 
affirmed his belief that Russia's action was essentially 
political, though he noted that corruption within the 
Lithuanian trucking sector made it an easy target for Russia. 
Landsbergis also suggested that the first anniversary of the 
Russian-Georgian conflict, in which Lithuania took a strong 
stand in support of Georgia, would also have been a prime 
rationale for Russian harassment of Lithuanian trucks. 
Whatever the motivation, Russia's actions against Lithuanian 
transport companies, as well as Russia's ban on various 
Lithuanian dairy products due to traces of antibiotics, has 
increased Lithuania's economic pain during a time of severe 
economic contraction. 
 
LEADER