Despite sanctions, Polish food smuggling to Kaliningrad is thriving

The food smuggling sector is growing between Poland and the Russian Kaliningrad region, according to Polish media sources. Russian citizens are unhappy with the lack of access to Western food due to the EU sanctions against Russia for its war against Ukraine.

While most of the Polish contraband to the Russian region tends to pass unnoticed, several recent detentions have sparked outrage in the country.

Russians from Kaliningrad voiced their dissatisfaction with the punishment of smugglers on Telegram. “Sanctions are in effect, and you can’t even smuggle,” one individual said. “They punish people; why don’t they provide us with high-quality, affordable food?” asked another person.

According to the Polish media Wirtualna Polska, Russian phytosanitary authorities caught a man attempting to smuggle 20kg of Polish sausage into the Kaliningrad region on January 11. The officials cited a lack of documentation and the risk posed by the African swine fever virus.

The sausage smuggler has to pay a fine. A shopping bag from Biedronka, Poland’s most popular discount store chain, was seen in the image of the confiscated products, which the Russian officials distributed to warn against similar acts.

The issue of food smuggling to Kaliningrad may be far more widespread than previously thought. On Telegram, a woman from Kaliningrad stated she spotted many cars in the city “with considerably more than 20 kg” of illicit goods that no one seized.

According to an employee of a Polish company operating at the border crossing, most people who travel to the Kaliningrad region bring food because the shops there need to be better supplied, and higher-quality products are expensive.

He said that most of the visitors are students, people of German ancestry with Russian passports and Schengen visas, or Russians with Polish spouses.

The Border Guard and customs officials of Poland said that their border services are not interested in people transporting bags of food. They stated that this is a problem for the Russians, who have introduced a limit of 5 kilograms of purchases per traveler.

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