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13 Jul, 2023 15:33

Moscow warns Berlin to stop stealing cars

Germany’s customs service has been confiscating private Russian cars entering the country, citing EU sanctions
Moscow warns Berlin to stop stealing cars

Berlin must “immediately” stop using “coercive measures” against visiting Russian citizens and explain why it has been seizing Russian private cars, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday. The demand comes as German Customs Service staff continue the practice at the country’s borders.

The steps taken by the German authorities “go beyond even the absolutely illegitimate demands of the anti-Russia sanctions packages,” Zakharova told the Russian journal Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn.

Both Russian and German media had earlier reported that customs officials there had started confiscating personal vehicles with Russian license plates upon their arrival in Germany. This was sometimes done to Russian tourists traveling through Europe using their personal transport.

“We consider the developments an abuse of power against our citizens and their property,” the spokeswoman said, calling the customs actions “a direct consequence of Russophobia, which is being widely spread by Brussels.”

German customs officials confirmed to newspaper Berliner Zeitung that Russian automobiles had been seized in line with what they called the EU sanctions regulations. “Goods that are subject to embargo prohibitions can be secured or confiscated,” a spokesman told the paper. The official also cited an EU regulation dating back to 2014 as a justification for the customs actions.

“Passenger cars and other motor vehicles are [registered] there and are therefore fundamentally a subject to the ban,” he added. Motorists entering Germany in cars with Russian license plates can now not only have their vehicles seized but may also be slapped with a heavy fine for unauthorized entry, Berliner Zeitung reported.

The German paper itself referred to the customs actions as “striking” and “harsh,” adding that no other EU nation has acted in a similar way so far. Some lawyers have urged their clients to contact Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) – a domestic security agency – over the issue.

The Russian embassy in Berlin has lodged a protest with the German Foreign Ministry, Zakharova said, adding that a demand has been made for the customs agency to cease such practices immediately and for those affected to be compensated for financial losses and moral damages.

“Regardless of whether it is the simple legal ignorance of certain German officials … or Berlin’s deliberate policy in line with the EU’s unending speculation about the quasi-legal reasons for the Russian assets seizure, such actions will not be left without a proper reaction,” the spokeswoman said.

The German Foreign Ministry has not commented on the situation so far.

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