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Russian ministry has no plans to limit trade with Estonia

Russia's economics ministry is not drafting any proposals to limit trade with Estonia, a deputy minister said Tuesday.

„I know nothing about it,” Vitaly Savelyev said, adding that the ministry had not received any instructions to the effect. Some Russian politicians have demanded economic measures to punish the Baltic state for removing a Soviet-era war memorial from the center of its capital. The move triggered violent protests among Russian speakers in Estonia and youth rallies in Russia, and the two countries are continuing exchanging rebukes and threats. Russia's economics minister earlier said Estonia's action would affect political and economic relations with Russia. „However, what form this could take, I am not prepared to comment,” German Gref said.

Estonia's share in Russia's trade turnover is about 0.7%, with the former supplying sea products to Russia. Mineral resources, including oil and iron ore, make up 75% of Russian exports to the small Baltic nation, which also imports timber from Russia and is a crucial transit point for Russian energy supplies to Western Europe. A handful of Russian companies have suspended their business ties with the ex-Soviet state over the dispute, but the government has not responded with sanctions against Estonia, whose business community is dominated by Russians. „We do not depend much on Russia economically, and sanctions could only affect Russian business,” Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said last week as quoted by the Russian daily Kommersant.

But Tallinn could delay a $10.5-billion pipeline to pump gas from Russia to Germany on the Baltic Sea bed. Estonia and Finland have demanded a thorough environmental assessment of the ambitious project to eventually supply 55 billion cubic meters to Europe bypassing transit countries. Last week, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who is also chairman of the board of shareholders in Nord Stream, was refused a meeting with Ansip due May 8 after he criticized the Baltic state for its handling of the WWII memorial. Kommersant said Schroeder had planned to try to speed up the environmental probe, Estonian authorities said would take four months, as construction is scheduled to begin in 2008 and the first leg is to be commissioned October 1, 2010.

Estonia's Eesti Raudtee railroad company reported Tuesday a decline in cargo traffic from Russia from 35 to 17 trains since May and plans to force some employees to take vacations and draft an anti-crisis program. Russian Railways railroad monopoly said Tuesday it had canceled the St. Petersburg-Tallinn train service, a Russian-Estonian project, as of May 26 for being unprofitable. „Performance indicators for April show that the service is unprofitable for both railroad companies,” Russian Railways said in a news release. The service was only launched March 31, 2007. Five-car trains were used in a daily service carrying 16 to 45 passengers. The service was already cancelled for being economically inefficient two years ago. (rian.ru)