Russia is the largest country in the world and connects Europe with Asia. The economy is based on extracting and exporting oil and gas. To make the economy depend less dependent on these raw materials, the government is modernising various sectors.
In this article, you can read more about the sanctions against Russia. And you get information about doing business with Russia.
Russia invaded Ukraine
Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022. Russia supports pro-Russian rebels in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine. Three days before the raid, Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised the self-proclaimed “People's Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine. Several countries, including the United States and the EU, immediately responded with sanctions against Russia.
The invasion prompted the international community, including the EU, to impose new sanctions. The EU sanctions have consequences for European companies that (want to) do business with Russia.
The sanctions include:
- You may not do business with certain individuals, companies and organisations.
- There is an export ban on certain products and services intended for the Russian energy and transport sector. This prohibition also applies to certain dual-use goods. These are goods that can have a military as well as a civilian function.
- An export ban applies to luxury goods with a value of €300 or more. This includes precious metals, watches, leather products, clothing, wine, truffles and caviar. There is also a ban on the export of cars, motorbikes and pleasure boats valued over €50,000 per item; household electrical items valued over €750 per item; and musical instruments valued over €1,500 per item. There is also a ban on the import of some steel products originating in and/or coming from Russia. Learn more.
- Since 8 April 2022, imports from Russia of timber, cement, fertilisers, fishery products and alcohol are forbidden. European ports are no longer allowed to accept ships under the Russian flag. Only vessels transporting humanitarian goods, energy and food are exempt. Access to the EU is also forbidden for Russian road freight (also from Belarusian transporters). The transport of pharmaceutical and medical products, food and humanitarian goods is allowed. Furthermore, European tenders are no longer accessible to Russian companies and exports to Russia of, among other things, quantum computers, advanced electronics, aviation fuel and advanced semiconductors are forbidden. From August 2022, there will be a ban on imports of coal and other solid fossil fuels from Russia.
- On 2 June 2022, the EU adopted a new sanction package. It includes a ban on purchases, imports and transfers of Russian crude oil at sea points from 5 December 2022. A ban on Russian refined petroleum products will take effect no later than 5 February 2023. A ban on the purchase, import and transit of Russian gold and jewellery containing Russian gold has been in place since 1 July 2022.
- The EC disconnected 7 Russian banks from the international payment system SWIFT on 12 March 2022, and the largest Russian bank (Sberbank) followed on the 2nd of June 2022. All transactions with 4 of these banks have been forbidden since 8 April.
- On 6 October 2022, the EU adopted a new sanctions package, the 8th package. There is a price cap for EU vessels for Russian petroleum and petroleum products that they transport by sea to countries outside of the EU. In addition, import bans will apply to even more Russian steel products and import restrictions will be imposed, among other things, wood pulp and paper, cigarettes, plastics, and cosmetic products. There will also be an export ban to Russia of a number of products, including civilian weapons and a ban on the provision of architecture and engineering services, IT consultancy services, and legal consultancy services to Russia. More information can be found in the press release of the EU and on the website of the national government.
- The EU approved the ninth sanctions package on 16 December 2022. This package includes an export ban to Russia for aircraft engines and parts, and a ban on the export of drone engines. There are also restrictions on the export of certain dual-use goods. These include chemicals, nerve gases, night vision and radio navigation equipment, electronics, and IT components for military use. Two additional Russian banks are subject to an asset freeze by the EU, while there is now a full transaction ban on the Russian Regional Development Bank. New investments in the Russian mining sector are banned. It also applies to market research, opinion polling services, testing products, and providing technical inspection services to the Russian Federation. Read more about the ninth sanctions package on the central government website.
Keep an eye on the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) website for current developments (in Dutch) and a complete overview of the EU sanctions. The Russia Business Desk (in Dutch) answers questions about the sanctions.
There have been sanctions against Russia for a while, partly because of the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol in 2014. For example, there is a complete import ban on products from Crimea and Sevastopol. Since 1 July 2016, the EU has extended these sanctions against Russia by six months each time. The sanctions are still in effect.
In response to the sanctions, Russia is boycotting many European agricultural, horticultural and fisheries products. Russia has also banned or restricted the export of more than 200 different products until the end of 2022. These include cars, medical equipment, agricultural equipment, railway carriages, telecommunications equipment and timber.
Doing business with Russia is difficult
Due to the sanctions that the EU and several other countries have imposed on Russia, doing business with Russia is currently difficult or even impossible. A number of Russian banks have lost their connection to the international payment system SWIFT and transport to and from Russia leads to major delays or is impossible.
The information that follows about doing business with Russia is about the period before Russia invaded Ukraine and before international sanctions were imposed by, among others, the EU.
The Netherlands Chamber of Commerce KVK is not currently issuing ATA carnets for Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
Subsidy for alternative markets
Do you do business in Ukraine and Russia, and have you been financially affected by the trade restrictions? You may be eligible for the subsidy SIB Alternative markets Ukraine and Russia from RVO. With this subsidy, you can get help in finding alternative markets and in optimising your supply chains, logistics processes, and international production.
Please note: the following information about doing business with Russia covers the period up to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. This was before more international sanctions were imposed by the EU.
A key part of the Russian economy is extracting and exporting oil and gas. The agricultural sector is also well developed, so Russia depends less on food imports.
The Netherlands is an important trading partner (in Dutch) of Russia. In addition to oil and natural gas, Dutch companies import aluminium, iron, steel, chemical products, fishery products and wood products from Russia. Dutch exports mainly consist of medicinal and pharmaceutical products, machines and electrical equipment, means of transport and computer equipment.
Due to the size of the country, it is impossible to cover all regions. Therefore, the initial focus is on the wealthier areas around Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Sectors such as infrastructure (including shipbuilding and ports), healthcare (including hospital construction and medical equipment) and living environment (including waste management and recycling) offer opportunities for entrepreneurs from the Netherlands. There is also a demand for high-quality agricultural and production machines.
With almost 150 million inhabitants, Russia remains an important consumer market. The e-commerce market was able to record tremendous growth during the coronavirus pandemic, as did supermarkets with delivery services.
Finding the right buyers or suppliers takes time. Visiting a local trade fair provides quick insight into the Russian market. In addition, it is a physical place for you to make first connections and build a network. You can find overviews of Russian fairs on various websites, for example AUMA or Expodatabase. Take into account the postponement of fairs due to the coronavirus.
Various organisations support you in the search for potential business relations, sometimes for a fee. Enterprise Europe Network (EEN, website in Dutch) is a professional network of 600 organisations in more than 60 countries, including Russia. The digital database (in Dutch) of EEN contains profiles of Russian companies that are looking for cooperation partners.
RVO helps to find reliable Russian business partners. For this, RVO uses its foreign network, including embassies. RVO can make an overview of business partners (in Dutch) for you based on your specific questions and requirements. A personal introduction is also possible. The Netherlands has an embassy and a consulate-general in Russia. The employees know the Russian market and have a network there. They will perform a company check for you on request. That is how you can find out if a Russian company actually exists.
The cultural differences between Russia and the Netherlands require a different approach towards your business partner. Keep in mind the business etiquette and manners in Russia to increase your chances of success. Personal contact is an important condition for success.
Here are some tips:
- Russians value that you are on time.
- It sometimes happens that your business partner is late. This may be a way to test your patience or to show power.
- When making agreements with local authorities, it is quite normal for your conversation partner to be late.
- Appointments and meetings often run late.
- Plan your follow-up appointments well in advance and do not show that you are under time pressure. Your business partner may use this to make the negotiation as favourable as possible for themselves.
Ask your bank about the options and about the payment form used in export and import, and the currency that best suits the transaction. Also ask what you should pay attention to when it comes to payment habits and payment behaviour in Russia.
Record contracts in writing
Record agreements with your Russian business partner in writing. Have these written agreements assessed by a lawyer with knowledge of Russian law. The Netherlands does not have an execution treaty with Russia. This means that a judgment of a Dutch court does not have to be executed in Russia. Resolving disputes through arbitration is an alternative in that situation. Instead of a judge, an arbitration court rules, such as the Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). Russia and the Netherlands are both signatories to the New York Convention. As a result, they recognise each other's arbitral decisions and enforcements.
The order is final, and you are exporting your product to Russia. In addition to an invoice, transport documents and packing list, you sometimes need additional export documents, such as a Certificate of Origin (CVO), issued by KVK. Via Access2Markets you can find out which documents are required when importing your product into Russia. RVO explains how to look up information (in Dutch) in this database.
You invoice your Russian customer with 0% VAT. The condition is that you can demonstrate in your administration that the goods leave the EU. For example, based on the export declaration, transport documents and payment receipts.
Product requirements for export
Russia sets high standards for products. Therefore, many products, such as equipment and consumer goods, require a Certificate of Conformity (in Dutch) of the Eurasian Economic Union. The certificate is also called a CU TR certificate or EAC certificate. With this certificate you demonstrate that the product meets the standards, quality and safety requirements of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). The EAEU consists of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. The certificate of conformity is valid for all member states of the EAEU. Recognised (accredited) certification agencies provide this certificate.
For products with a lower risk, a declaration of conformity (Declaration of Conformity of the Eurasian Economic Union) is sufficient to demonstrate safety. The statement is also known as a CU TR statement or EAC statement.
Products that comply with the technical regulations of the EAEU may carry the EAC (EurAsian Conformity) logo. This is the Eurasian version of the European CE logo. Other product requirements are possible. This depends on the type of product you are exporting. Access2Markets provides information about product groups and associated product requirements.
The Netherlands has sufficient experienced logistic service providers who are aware of customs procedures in Russia. A lot of transport (in Dutch) is by road. Airfreight represents a modest share of domestic logistics. Most of the extra costs you incur during transport depend on Russian customs. Besides some peaks around the turn of the year and a shortage of transport permits, waiting days at customs form the largest part of unexpected extra costs (source: evofenedex). Make clear agreements in advance with your Russian business partner. Agree on an Incoterm® with each other and include this in the contract.
When importing from Russia you usually pay import duties. There is no trade agreement between Russia and the EU. The amount of the import duty depends on the so-called commodity code, or TARIC code, of your product. In addition, you also pay Dutch VAT (in Dutch).
Specific import regulations apply to the import of certain products. For example, when it concerns goods that may pose a risk to safety, health, the economy and the environment. Inquire in advance at customs or your customs broker which documents are required when importing your product from Russia.
The rates of import duties and any other levies that you pay when importing from Russia are stated in the Customs Tax Service's Usage Rate (in Dutch).
Product requirements and product liability
Are you importing a product from non-EU countries such as Russia? Then take into account the European and national requirements and rules that apply to the product. The product must be safe and usable. As an importer of products from Russia, you are liable for (injury) damage caused by a faulty product. Does the product pose a risk? Then insure yourself against product liability.
If you provide services in Russia, you will need a visa and an invitation letter from your Russian business partner. If you carry out a job in Russia for which you bring tools that you take back after your job, you can use an ATA carnet for this. This 'goods passport' prevents you from paying import duties, VAT or a deposit for temporary import into Russia and re-import into the EU.
Consult the Tax and Customs Administration tool ‘Diensten in en uit het buitenland’ (in Dutch) to find out whether the service you provide in the Netherlands or Russia is taxed with VAT. If you supply electronic services directly to Russian consumers or companies, you must register for VAT in Russia and pay VAT there.
Do you have questions about doing business with partners or customers in Ukraine or Russia? Find out more in this dossier or contact a KVK advisor via telephone number 088 585 22 22.