German customs threatens to seize Russian Christmas gifts

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Germany may confiscate gift parcels sent from Russia ahead of this year’s festive season, the country’s Federal Customs Service announced in statement on its website this week.

According to the statement, gift parcels are regulated by the same sanctions legislation as any imports, as they may contain sanctioned goods such as paper, pulp, precious stones and metals, cigarettes, chemical and plastic products, cosmetics, etc.

There is no exception to the prohibitions covered by an Annex XXI to the Sanctions Regulation for gift consignments sent from a private individual in Russia to another private individual in the customs territory of the European Union,” the statement read, signaling that even such innocent items such as books, toys and perfume sent from Russia will likely not make it to their German recipients.

Gifts are not the first personal items belonging to Russians that have not been allowed in Germany. Previously, the country’s customs officials warned that any personal belongings of Russians falling under sanctions could be confiscated at the border, including smartphones, laptops, suitcases, portables, clothing and even toiletries. Cars have also been subject to the embargo: there have been several incidents this year when German customs officers seized cars bearing a Russian license plate, which travelers brought across the German border.

Several other EU member states have also been confiscating Russians’ personal items at border crossings. Most began doing so after the European Commission issued a sanctions clarification in September that condoned such measures.

Last month, the European Parliament urged EU nations to stop the practice and called on the executive body to “review its interpretation of sanctions leading to the seizure and confiscation of items and vehicles for personal use only.” In a joint motion, lawmakers warned that “such over compliance discredits the goal and instrument of sanctions.” However, the recommendation was not legally binding and has not yet been taken up by the European Commission.

Moscow has repeatedly slammed the practice of taking away the belongings of ordinary Russians as illegal, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova calling it outright “racist.”

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