Finland seizes hundreds of Russian freight cars as EU sanctions bite

* This content was produced in Russia, where the law restricts reporting on Russian military operations in Ukraine
MOSCOW, July 5 (Reuters) - Finland has seized nearly a thousand freight wagons owned by Russian companies due to European Union sanctions, according to Finnish state-owned rail operator VR and a letter from the Russian rail monopoly obtained by Reuters.
When Finland's PR reduced rail traffic with Russia after the EU sanctioned Russian coal shipments in April, 865 rail cars from Russia were seized by bailiffs, according to a June 6 letter from Russian Railways to the Ministry of Transport.
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Finland's bailiffs agency told Reuters it had frozen at least €82 million worth of assets belonging to several dozen Russian and Belarusian individuals and legal entities, including transport companies, to comply with EU sanctions.
VR spokeswoman Taina Kuitunen confirmed by email that "there are currently around 800 units of sanctioned (freight) wagons in Finland" and that the company is aiming to return those not confiscated to Russia as soon as possible.
VR's logistics manager told Finnish media in March that around 5,000 Russian railway carriages were in Finland when it decided to halt service and while his company wanted to send them back, bailiffs ordered some to be confiscated.
The seized wagons belong to companies that are either directly affected by EU sanctions or whose shareholders gave up control because they were hit by sanctions after Russia sent troops to Ukraine in late February.
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Uralchem-Trans, whose former owner, Dmitry Mazepin, relinquished control after coming under EU sanctions in March, did not respond to a request for comment, and state leasing company GTLK itself declined to comment under EU sanctions.
Rusagrotrans, part of Demetra Holding, where sanctions-hit state bank VTB ceded control to other investors in February, also declined to comment.
The fourth company whose cars were confiscated, Alpha Leasing, has appealed to a Finnish court against an "unlawful" move by Finnish bailiffs, said Andrey Barkov, head of the company's business. Alpha Leasing is a unit of sanctions-hit Alfa Bank.
Russian Railways declined to comment, and the Ministry of Transport did not respond to a request for comment. (Reporting by Reuters and Anne Kauranen in Helsinki Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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