Russia and Ukraine reach deal to temporarily unblock trucks

MOSCOW – Russian and Ukrainian authorities have reached an agreement that will allow long-haul trucks a grace period to “return home” after Ukraine-licensed vehicles were forbidden from transiting Russian territory and vice versa.

Over 600 Ukraine-registered trucks that are currently on Russian territory will be now be allowed to exit and approximately 600 Russia-registered trucks will be allowed to leave Ukraine before the borders are closed again, according to Ukraine’s transport ministry. The grace period will last through Feb. 25.

Russian cargo truckers are having an increasingly difficult time reaching Europe. Moscow’s transit agreement with Poland — another key mainland route to the EU — lapsed at the beginning of February and Russia-registered cargo trucks are no longer allowed to enter Poland and Poland-registered trucks are no longer allowed to transit Russia.

Talks between the two countries to renew the agreement are set to take place on Feb. 19, transport ministry spokesman Timur Khikmatov told The Associated Press.

Until this problem is resolved, many Russian truckers have been switching to Belarussian vehicles so they can continue their trek through Poland, according to the transport ministry.

On Tuesday, Russia’s transport ministry decided to close its borders to Ukraine-registered trucks and block their movement within Russia.

The transport ministry’s announcement came after Ukraine’s prime minister announced on Monday that cargo trucks registered in Russia will temporarily not be allowed to enter Ukraine.

Over the weekend, activists in Ukraine began blocking Russia-registered trucks and the situation quickly escalated, leading to the current bans.

Relations between Moscow and Kyiv have deteriorated over the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The tit-for-tat ban on truck transit follows a series of sanctions and food import bans between the two countries.