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Transport of “blood ore” to Russia sparks outrage in Baltic countries

Transport of “blood ore” to Russia sparks outrage in Baltic countries

The recent discovery that Baltic companies and infrastructure have been used to ship manganese to Russiaa key material for making tanks and artillery pieces, has caused outrage in Latvia and calls for politicians to immediately cut off the flow of this “blood ore.”

Although this mineral was transported to Russia before the war with Ukraine began, in 2022 shipments exceeded one million tons and in 2023 they grew again, reaching 1.5 million, according to Latvian media.

Furthermore, according to the Estonian newspaper Postimees, which was the one who reported these facts, approximately 90% of the 2 million tons of manganese ore imported by Russia in 2023 was transported through the ports and railways of Estonia and Latvia. Likewise, customs data collected by Latvian radio and television, LSM, indicate that more than 1.4 million tons of this mineral came from Latvia.

It is not punishable

On the sanctions list of products that cannot be exported to Russia, following the war with Ukraine, manganese is not included. Furthermore, it is not subject to controls on assets of strategic importance. According to official data, the Chelyabinsk electrometallurgical plant is one of the recipients of the shipments.

These revelations have caused deep indignation in part of the societies in Estonia and Latvia, where citizens described the transport of manganese ore to Russia as a “shame” on social networks and demanded the unilateral end of the transit, without expecting an eventual embargo of the European Union (EU) as a whole.

In Latvia, an NGO and a small liberal political party, which is not present in the country’s Parliament, held a protest demonstration calling for the immediate cessation of the transit of this “war” mineral. In parallel, a signature campaign has begun on the platform Mana Balss (My Voice) asking the Latvian Government to impose national sanctions on the transit of manganese ore.

This public movement has already registered just over 5,000 of the 10,000 signatures necessary for it to be presented to legislators until March 30. However, not continuing manganese transit contracts could negatively impact the Baltic country’s railways.

The president of Latvian Railways, Rilands Plavnieks, recently noted that, although in 2022 approximately 75% of the total volume was transported by the state company LDz cargo, so far in 2023 the percentage is already only 6% and the rest corresponds to private companies, according to LSM.

Political statements

In previous statements, Evika Silina, Latvian Prime Minister, had stressed that only the EU as a whole could take effective measures to stop trade with Russia, although she has also expressed her intention to reach a “regional solution”, beyond the European bloc. .

In fact, Latvian Foreign Minister Krisjanis Karins called at the last EU Council of Ministers in Brussels on March 18 to extend sanctions on the export and transit of raw materials used in the Russian military industry to include manganese and aluminum oxide.

Following this, on March 27, the Latvian Parliament or Saeima finally approved a resolution to ask the EU to immediately include manganese ore in the next round of sanctions against Russia.

This document also urged that manganese be declared a “dual use” substance: civil and military. Although it did not seek an immediate suspension of transit or a boycott of all trade with Russia and Belarus as some opposition politicians requested. In Brussels, meanwhile, work is already underway on the fourteenth package of sanctions against Russia for its attack on Ukraine.

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Source: Gestion

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