Russia’s Gray Market Imports May Soar to $16 Billion As Sanctions Hit Trade

  • Russia’s gray market imports total $6.5 billion since May, according to Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov. 
  • That figure could balloon to $16 billion by the end of the year as Moscow is trying to circumvent Western sanctions. 
  • Such unauthorized imports provide goods for Russia’s market without requiring an agreement from their original manufacturers.

Russia’s unauthorized imports have hit $6.5 billion since May, as Moscow tries to find alternative goods outside the purview of Western sanctions.

That’s up from $2 billion in June, and the figure could grow to $16 billion by the end of the year, Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov told the Interfax news service, according to Bloomberg

In May, the Kremlin launched a program that allowed so-called parallel imports, or gray market sales, that provide goods for Russia’s market without requiring an agreement from their original manufacturers, the report said. 

The Russian economy has faced stiff sanctions due to its invasion of Ukraine, including a freeze on its foreign-currency holdings that has limited international trade. Meanwhile, Western companies have also abandoned the Russian market, leaving companies and consumers to scramble for domestic replacements or alternative sourcing methods.

Last week, Russia’s central bank estimated that imports could tumble as much as 31.5% this year from 2021’s total of $380 billion in goods. 

Even before its invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin has tried to reduce its dependence on imports and instead rely more on domestic suppliers. 

On Monday, Manturov said unauthorized imports shouldn’t hurt local companies. He said in July some imports of parallel goods could be canceled if domestic producers can meet local demand.  

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