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Don't let Russian cars enter EU territory, Brussels tells member states

The European Commission has urged member states to prohibit the entrance of cars that carry Russian licence plates.
The European Commission has urged member states to prohibit the entrance of cars that carry Russian licence plates. Copyright Sasu Makinen/Lehtikuva
Copyright Sasu Makinen/Lehtikuva
By Jorge Liboreiro
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The European Commission has urged member states to prohibit the entrance of road vehicles that carry a Russian licence plate.

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The ban is part of the raft of sanctions the bloc has imposed in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to launch a full-scale war against Ukraine.

While the measure has been in place for months, the European Commission updated its guidelines on Friday to guarantee member states are implementing the restriction in a correct and uniform manner.

The ban applies to motor vehicles that carry a Russian license plate and are registered in Russia, the guidelines say. Whether the vehicles are for private or commercial use or whether their stay in the EU is for the short- or long-term is "irrelevant" and should not lead to a differentiated treatment.

The guidelines also urge national authorities to make sure that a long list of "personal products" that originate in Russia do not come into the bloc.

The list includes commonplace objects, such as razor blades, dental floss, deodorants, soap, clothes and footwear, but also numerous items that could potentially have a military application, like pneumatic tires, radio systems and electric generators.

The law includes an exemption if these Russian-made products are intended for "the personal use of nationals of member states and their immediate family members."

Asked about the reason behind the update, Daniel Ferrie, a spokesperson for the European Commission, said the document was part of the ongoing effort to crack down on circumvention, a phenomenon that the bloc has struggled to effectively tackle.

"We're regularly in contact with member states to ensure that, even if there is a doubt, we address that doubt very swiftly and this is just part of that overall work," Ferrie said on Monday afternoon.

"Sanctions need to be implemented and applied strictly."

Compliance with the ban on Russian cars is mandatory and enshrined in EU law, Ferrie noted, but it is up to member states to choose the way in which it is put into practice.

Confiscation is one of the possible methods, Ferrie added, but not the only one.

Russian citizens can still enter the EU by car if the road vehicle they travel in does not carry a Russian licence plate. However, the issuance of tourist visas is a national competence and has led to diverging approaches between member states.

The update triggered a furious response from the Kremlin.

"It's just racism," Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson of the Russian foreign affairs ministry, said on Monday. "This is racism pure and simple."

Ferrie declined to comment on Zakharova's words.

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