Russia managed to circumvent Western sanctions in 2022 with the help of its partners in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) - Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The problem is that it was these countries that significantly increased purchases of dual-value goods that fell under anti-Russian sanctions, but in Russia they "evaporated" - that is, they did not reach their original destination. According to the Financial Times, about $1 billion worth of double-value goods worth about $2 billion has “evaporated” in Russia.
American and European authorities believe that these goods could be intended to help the Russian authorities - so that they continue to provide for the needs of the army in the war against Ukraine. They could enter Russia from the EU only under the pretext that Russia would not receive these goods, but would be used exclusively as a transit country. The final recipients were to be companies in Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. The publication concludes that Russia simply used fake customs declarations, which made it possible to "intercept" a significant part of the goods from its partners in the EAEU.
“Where else could these goods go? Why did these countries suddenly need these goods at this time? Who in the region needs these goods the most? Obviously, Russia,” the minister for sanctions in the Estonian government, Erki Kodar, is indignant, commenting on the unprecedented increase in imports to Russia’s partners in the EAEU.
The publication notes that some products, the shortage of which, apparently, is extremely acute in Russia, did not reach their "official" buyers in third countries at all. We are talking about gas turbines, metallurgical and broadcasting equipment. Difficulties with transit underline in part the futility of the EU's attempts to stop the flow of sanctioned products to Russia, even from the territory of the Union. Nevertheless, the European authorities expect that tougher responsibility for helping to circumvent sanctions, including against third countries, through the imposition of secondary sanctions should help solve this problem.
In February 2023, the European Union banned the transit of dual-value goods through Russia. However, some EU members believe that this is not enough, as the ban applies to specific categories of goods. For example, Lithuania and Estonia fear that Russia will continue to import necessary goods using false documents under the pretext that they are not on the banned list. The authorities of countries neighboring Russia demand a complete ban on the transit of goods through the Russian Federation in order to avoid such cases and minimize the risks of deliveries of sanctioned products. They propose to introduce a similar ban against Belarus. In the event of an urgent need for some humanitarian goods, such as medical products, Estonia and Lithuania propose to create a list of exceptions - in their opinion, this can solve the problem.
At the same time, the real figures of “shadow imports” to Russia can be much higher. The FT cites a discrepancy between the EU’s export declaration and Kazakhstan’s import report, which suggests that the gap between goods sent from the EU and received in Kazakhstan is about $2.9 billion. Moreover, in 2021, all imports from the EU to Kazakhstan amounted to approximately $450 million. The publication hints that it is not only about “shadow imports”, but also about the fact that Kazakhstan is helping Russia by reselling European products to it. In total, the volume of such trade, which does not reach official buyers, can be estimated at several billion dollars.