Hundreds of trucks lined up to leave on Latvia's eastern border

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In response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Russian and Belarusian carriers have been barred from crossing the European Union's external border since Saturday, April 9. However, until 16 April, the crossing of the border is still permitted for transport operations started before 9 April or for the introduction of the specific sanction – which in many cases means Russian an Belarusian truckers are allowed to go home. 

Latvian Radio reports April 12 that there are currently about 720 trucks waiting in line at Latvia's Terehova border checkpoint. Many of them have Russian license plates.

The drivers told Latvian Radio that the line had been created due to the sanctions imposed on Russia and that the situation was even worse elsewhere, with a four or even five day wait to cross the Belarusian-Polish border.

"I am waiting in line for the third day. There were 760 cars in line before me, and in fact, nothing really happens here during those three days. There is nowhere to buy cigarettes. Sorry, but there are two toilets in the terminal for all these people,” said the unnamed driver of a truck registered in Latvia, who is going to Russia.

He will cross the Latvian-Russian border without any problems, but he does not know whether he will be able to return as easily.

However, the majority of trucks waiting in line have Russian license plates, Latvian Radio noted.

A driver from a transport company registered in Smolensk is in a hurry to get from Lithuania to Russia: “Of course, we evaluate the closure of the border for trucks from Russia negatively. That is our job. We will not be affected because we loaded before April 9th. We carry fertilizer. Carriers try to avoid carrying goods that are already on the sanctions lists. We were left in complete ignorance over the weekends, and we still don't have any specific information. We will stand on the border for a few more days," he said.

Restricting freight traffic between Russia and the European Union will hurt not only Russia but also the European Union, a Russian driver says. He is worried about losing his job.

At lunchtime on a working day, many drivers go to the only available border café from the long queue. Tired of sitting idle, the men are clearly frustrated. Someone sips a beer, another queues to order lunch.

The manager of the cafe, Līga, said that for the time being there are enough visitors. However, she is worried about what will happen in the coming days, when Russian and Belarusian cargo carriers will no longer be able to cross the border and, consequently, there will likely be less custom for the cafe.

At present, cars registered in Russia and Belarus, which are subject to temporary exemptions, can still cross the border. Since April 9, 14 trucks have been refused border crossing at Terehova.

"There is a transitional period for shipments started before 9 April. They are allowed to be transported until April 16. Or, if started in the Russian Federation's Kaliningrad region, they will be allowed to leave via transit,” said Aivars Šarkovskis, Supervisor of the Control of the Latgale Customs Point of the Customs Board of the State Revenue Service.

He predicted that truck traffic in Terehova could halve after April 16.

However, a long line at the Latvia-Russia border is by no means a new sight: for years Russia used the Terehova border point to express its displeasure at policy decisions in Latvia by introducing go-slow border checks, and at times lines of trucks extended for dozens of kilometers as a result. Then they would disappear as quickly as they formed. Now the boot is on the other foot and it is Russian truckers who can expect to encounter severe delays or an order to go back to where they came from.

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