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Russia allows first Swiss aid convoy to return

The payment demand goes against a deal agreed earlier by the Russian foreign minister, Igor Ivanov (right), and his Swiss counterpart, Joseph Deiss (left)

(Keystone Archive)

Russia has allowed one of the convoys carrying Swiss aid destined for Georgia to return to Switzerland after they were blocked at customs posts for several months by Russian authorities who were demanding that the Swiss pay taxes on the goods.

The customs office is still waiting for the payment before releasing the final convoy of second-hand army supplies, a Swiss foreign ministry spokesman said.

The payment demand goes against a deal agreed earlier this month by the Russian foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, during a meeting in Bern with his Swiss counterpart, Joseph Deiss.

Once the convoys have returned to Switzerland, the foreign ministry spokesman said that efforts would be made to find other ways of delivering the goods, which are destined for Georgia's border police and prison service.

Russia first intercepted the trains last year on the grounds that their contents ran the risk of falling into the hands of rebels in the breakaway republic of Chechnya, with which Georgia shares a border.

The Swiss foreign ministry said the goods consisted of 50 off-road vehicles, 27 tonnes of military clothing, medical items, x-ray machines and cooking equipment.

It said there were no weapons, weapon parts or combat clothing included in the load.

The first convoy was intercepted last September at the Russian border with Azerbaijan, while the second convoy has been sitting at the Russian border with Ukraine since October.

swissinfo with agencies


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