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Estonian MP suspects EVR Cargo of violating sanctions on Russia

TALLINN – Reform Party MP Eerik-Niiles Kross has voiced the suspicion that the state owned Estonian rail cargo operator EVR Cargo is violating the sanctions on Russia by using freight cars made by the Russian rolling stock manufacturer Uralvagonzavod (UVZ).

The CEO of EVR Cargo, Raul Toomsalu, has denied the charge, saying that the company has no contact with UVZ whatsoever.

"The fleet of rolling stock of AS EVR Cargo includes open wagons made by the UVZ heavy military equipment manufacturer of the Russian Federation," it stands in a letter sent by Kross to Minister of Economic Affairs ad Infrastructure Kadri Simson.

Kross said that sanctions have been imposed on UVZ both by the European Union and the United States in connection with Russia's destabilizing actions in Ukraine.

Kross is asking the minister about the provision of maintenance for the wagons and whether and on what scope agreements exist or transactions have been concluded with companies subject to the sanctions.

"EVR Cargo has had no economic contact whatsoever with UVZ during the past five years. Maintenance of the wagons is performed either by EVR Cargo itself or by transport companies which have nothing to do with UVZ," EVR Cargo CEO Raul Toomsalu told BNS.

He said that the UVZ wagons currently in the EVR fleet were obtained in 2006 and 2007, when the current EVR Cargo was one company with Estonian Railways and the owners were Americans.

The suspicion that the purchase of wagons by EVR Cargo from Russia may run counter to the EU sanctions against Russia has been expressed previously also by the leader of the Reform Party, Hannu Pevkur, and MEP Urmas Paet, former minister of foreign affairs.

"To my knowledge, this is not a development that would contradict the European sanctions. Rail cars and the rail car business are not under sanctions. Managers of EVR Cargo have confirmed that nor are their lessees under sanctions. The sanctions have been imposed first and foremost on military technology and the companies that support the annexation of Crimea. EVR Cargo is not engaging in cooperation with these companies," Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Kadri Simson told BNS in July, responding to the criticism.

Simson also reminded her critics that the plan as such was invented when the Reform Party was still the leading party of the coalition government.

EVR Cargo signed a 17.8-million-euro agreement in June to buy 300 container platforms and 200 open wagons from Russia. EVR Cargo has rented the container platforms to a Finnish company and the open wagons to a Lithuanian company.

EVR Cargo's main lines of business are freight shipment by rail, maintenance of locomotives and wagons, and rent of railcars.The brand new wagons and platforms included, the fleet of EVR Cargo consist of 66 locomotives and 3,022 wagons. The company employed 684 people in 2016.

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