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15 Feb, 2024 16:33

EU country begins seizing Russian cars

The confiscated vehicles will be handed over to Ukraine, Latvia’s Transport Ministry said
EU country begins seizing Russian cars

The Latvian government's deadline for the owners of vehicles with Russian license plates to register them locally or get them out of the country expired on Wednesday. The new law, which has come into force, allows the authorities to seize such vehicles and donate them to Ukraine's war effort. 

”Starting today… if a vehicle registered in Russia is found to be used in road traffic in Latvia, it can be confiscated and handed over free of charge to support Ukraine in the fight against the aggressor state,” the Interior Ministry announced in a statement on X (formerly Twitter) on Thursday.

According to the new rules, the affected drivers will not only lose their cars, but will also have to pay a fine of between €750 ($808) and €2,000 ($2,150).

The legislation allows 24-hour transit through Latvian territory and also makes an exception for vehicles used or owned by diplomatic workers.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported on Wednesday that getting Latvian license plates for a Russian car has been difficult for owners. They were required to pay a customs duty of 10% of the vehicle's market value and a value added tax of 21%. Furthermore, only cars that were purchased before October 2022 and have an EU-approved operating certificate are allowed to be registered in the Baltic nation.

Most owners of Russian cars opted to sell them outside the country, the paper said, without revealing exact figures.

Russian lawmaker and Olympic speed-skating champion Svetlana Zhurova described the ban on Russian cars in Latvia as a provocation by the former Soviet republic, where many Russian citizens live and own property. “The West… is looking for different ways to harm us. It’s clear that this initiative can be adopted in other countries,” she warned.

The Russian embassy in Riga earlier described the planned seizure of Russian vehicles as “an act of state robbery.”

Latvia, which like the other Baltic states is a strong supporter of Ukraine, already donated some 270 cars worth €903,453 ($994,566), which were confiscated from drunk drivers, to Kiev last year, according to data from the State Revenue Service.