International bus trips from Rīga to Russia and Belarus are provided by five companies. Travel is in demand, with additional trips even scheduled for the new year celebrations.
Andris Podgornijs, Chairman of Norma A's Board of Directors, said that Moscow and St. Petersburg have one trip per day, and currently passenger traffic is decreasing:
“70% are Ukrainians who go on buses both ways. We have transported refugees a lot, we have a contract with the UN Refugee Committee, tickets are paid for and people are traveling. We've had that contract for two years already.
“Those who have permits, both Latvian citizens and third country citizens, correspondents, refugees, mothers with children, travel very much. Age groups from 9 years to 90 years. There used to be three buses a day to Moscow, now only one, so there are fewer passengers. If passenger traffic falls so much that people won't travel, then we certainly won't. [..] We are not cooperating [with Russia], we are taking passengers who have permission to do so. Border guards know what time we come, who comes, and control happens.”
Carriers are supervised by the Road Transport Administration, which shall keep track of the documentation and assess whether the cooperation partners in the other country are included in the sanctions lists.
Indra Gromule, a spokeswoman for the Road Transport Administration, said that carriers should check passenger documents, but they are checked again at the border by State Border Guard officers:
“We also consulted the security services assessing the risks, and their opinion is that regular service is much better controlled and verifiable than occasional. A consultative council has been set up, comprising Border Guard representatives, customs representatives, representatives of the Ministry of Transport, and representatives of carrier associations.”
On the other hand, the Foreign Ministry has repeatedly warned Latvian entrepreneurs about the risks of sanctions, security, and reputation in cooperation with aggressor countries, and invites Latvian residents not to travel to Russia, reminded Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Diāna Eglīte:
“It should be noted that the entry of Russian citizens into Latvia is also strictly determined – there is a Cabinet of Ministers order that stipulates that only certain categories of Russian citizens, such as family members of Latvian nationals, can enter Latvia when crossing its external border. It is important to remember that if a person wishes to enter Latvia for tourism or cultural purpose, he or she will not be able to enter Latvia.
“It should also be noted that in-depth inspections of Russian citizens on the external borders of Latvia and other Baltic States with Russia have been taking place since the beginning of the war. That's what you have to take into account. ”
Currently, passenger transport to Russia and Belarus is not prohibited, but, according to the representative of the Road Transport Administration, as the geopolitical situation changes, the situation can change also in international passenger transport and carriers have to take this into account.