Moscow Ends Train Service to Many Neighboring Countries for 2015

December 10, 2014
Tajik labor migrants on the train in Dushanbe preparing to leave for Moscow. Photo by David Trilling/Eurasianet.org

Staunton, December 9 – Because of declining demand and profitability, Russian Railways says it will suspend passenger train routes beginning on December 14th between the Russian Federation, on the one hand, and Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, on the other, but it is not blocking any trains from these countries to Russia.

But a spokesman for the Russian railway’s daughter company which handles passenger travel said that it was not eliminating routes between Russia and the following countries: Belarus, Uzbekistan, Moldova, and Abkhazia. As a result, Russian Rail will maintain five international trains.

If Moscow follows past practice, these suspensions will last at least throughout 2015, a development that will significantly reduce the flow of people in both directions and represent yet another unpacking of the Moscow-centric post-Soviet space as those who seek to travel between these countries will now have to fly, a much more expensive option.

Moreover, these suspensions will exacerbate Moscow’s relationships with countries from which many of its labor migrants are drawn, quite possibly leading to the radicalization of those now in Moscow and the increasing impoverishment and radicalization of those who want to seek work in Russia but won’t be able to.

This announcement follows cutbacks in service between Russia and Ukraine over the past eight months, the result of Kyiv’s imposition of restrictions on admission to the country of men between 16 and 60, Moscow’s occupation of Crimea, and disagreements over routing and schedules between the two.

Since March 2014, Russian flights have bypassed Ukraine, and Aeroflot has suspended service to Kharkhiv and Dnipropetrovsk. At the same time, Russian railways and airlines have reduced their schedules within the country, cutting off many smaller and mid-sized cities from the country’s transportation network.