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This morning a Russian media company RBC reported that (vaguely translated from Russian) "EU prohibited Russians to enter the EU with personal cars, smartphones and shampoo". A similar story is run in English by two other websites I'm not familiar with: Obozrevatel.com and Perild.com.

Question: are Russian tourists* prohibited from entering EU member states with smartphones/toothpaste for their personal use? Assuming there are no other restrictions like a country-wide entry ban for tourists, personal sanctions, or some specific non-EU-compliant shampoo (maybe a one that's too dangerous in general).

*—whether that means citizens of Russia, residents of Russia, any person entering EU from Russia, any person entering EU shortly after visiting Russia, non-citizen of EU (e.g. a US/UK citizen), or any reasonable combination of those.

There is a document titled "IMPORT, PURCHASE & TRANSFER OF LISTED GOODS. FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS – AS OF 8 SEPTEMBER 2023" at https://finance.ec.europa.eu/system/files/2023-09/faqs-sanctions-russia-listed-goods_en.pdf that seems related:

  1. Can Russian nationals temporarily bring personal goods and vehicles listed in Annex XXI and subject to the prohibition in Art. 3i of Council Regulation 833/2014 into the Union, e.g. for touristic travels?

No. Article 3i of Council Regulation 833/2014 prohibits the purchase, import, or transfer, directly or indirectly, of goods as listed in Annex XXI to the Regulation if they originate in Russia or are exported from Russia. This includes motor vehicles (cars) falling under CN code 8703.

I believe this text relates to Annex XXI here, that includes:

3306 preparations for oral or dental hygiene, incl. denture fixative pastes and powders; yarn used to clean between the teeth ‘dental floss’, in individual retail package

3401 soap; ...; organic surface-active products and preparations for washing the skin, in the form of liquid or cream and put up for retail sale, whether or not containing soap

8703 motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of <10 persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702 )

8517 telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks; other apparatus for the transmission or reception of voice, images or other data, incl. apparatus for communication in a wired or wireless network [such as a local or wide area network]; parts thereof (excl. than transmission or reception apparatus of heading 8443 , 8525 , 8527 or 8528 )

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  • I'm wondering if this question is better suited for law.stackexchange.com? Even if there was a recent change in either law or interpretation, it may take a while for these changes to get adopted by member states' customs, some confiscations to take place, and those finally get reported in media or social networks. Moreover, it may be hard to prove the negative as "successfully entered the EU with shampoo" is probably not something news-worthy especially if prohibited de jure.
    – yeputons
    Sep 11, 2023 at 8:49
  • The hypothetical question of "Would people be stopped carrying in toothpaste?" can only be answered with opinions until it is tested. The hypothetical question "Would it be illegal to carry in toothpaste?" can only be answered with opinions until a trial happens. For legal opinions, yes Law.SE is a better site, because we don't accept opinions here. But if someone has been stopped and/or has been tried, then we can give empirical answers here.
    – Oddthinking
    Sep 12, 2023 at 23:14
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    An updated FAQ has been published with a slightly different wording: finance.ec.europa.eu/system/files/2023-09/…
    – rinspy
    Sep 14, 2023 at 10:02

3 Answers 3

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Formally, yes. The FAQ you linked to affirmatively clarifies this with regards to the rules that existed already for some time (for some goods, long ago).

But the story is somewhat complicated by the fact that the European Commission (EC) rules are not legally binding directly. They are only recommendations to the member states, which may implement them differently.

Germany was confiscating cars months ago on some occasions. The more, shall we say, alienated countries (such as Lithuania) already issued statements that they are going to implement the ban quite strictly. Others, like Finland, are holding back and "evaluating".

The most visible part of it applies to cars: this is the easiest to enforce and (perhaps) is less controversial. How it works out with "smartphones/toothpaste" we shall see soon enough: only the practical implementation will tell. But we can be quite certain it will be different in different countries: the breadth of the ban is great, and interpretation and "reasonableness" differ.

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It looks like yes, it does. But it seems it has to be proven that the item originates from Russia.

It can be a bit tricky with the electronic devices sometimes. Because for instance a Google Pixel phone will never originate from Russia (and never did before) which has nothing to do with sanctions – Google just never sold it in Russia officially (as well as in the majority of other countries around the globe). But also many other devices like cameras are often distributed in Russia illegally and I think especially lately.

Regarding other products, I guess it's impossible to prove legally that some liquid in your 100ml traveller tank is a "Russian" shampoo.

Though technically if one brings toothpaste in its original tube with labels clearly telling it was distributed in Russia then it can be a subject of violation.

That's how I understand it.

PS Thanks for the breaking this story in pieces and details, basically I found an answer here.

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    Welcome to Skeptics! At the moment, this is just an opinion. Please provide some references to support your claims.
    – Oddthinking
    Sep 11, 2023 at 6:11
  • Hi @Oddthinking, thanks for sharing this. Well, I can tell that recently three different people (a couple and one guy separately) visited my friend in Barcelona. They all came from Russia (not with a direct flight of course but still). They even brought some sturgeon caviar and they didn't have any additional checks. That happened in the beginning of September though (less than two weeks ago). Also my friend is going to visit Berlin (from KZ) in the end of September, I can keep posting. Let me know if you would suggest me to move this info in the answer.
    – ivkremer
    Sep 11, 2023 at 12:22
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    On a lot of sites, anecdotal evidence like that would be welcomed. On this site, you need to provide independent references. There are too many people making up stuff on the Internet, so we can't trust first person accounts. We want to be able to verify it for ourselves.
    – Oddthinking
    Sep 11, 2023 at 12:48
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    @Oddthinking makes sense. I see that the OP doubted whether this question should be posted on a different website (law.stackexchange.com). What do you think? That would make even more sense for me then. Because otherwise I'm not sure it's possible to provide any non-anecdotal evidences. What it could even be? Some videos (does TikTok count?) with people getting off the jet and walking outside of the airport keep their passport in front?..
    – ivkremer
    Sep 12, 2023 at 14:57
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    Ha, we haven't seen that before, but I guess those videos would count as evidence, if we could see their provenance.
    – Oddthinking
    Sep 12, 2023 at 23:08
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are Russian tourists prohibited from entering EU member states with smartphones/toothpaste for their personal use?

Based on the document you have just quoted, the answer to your question (as it was worded) is "no". With a caveat of course. As it follows from the document, Russian tourists can bring cars/smartphones/toothpaste/etc, as soon as those are NOT "originated or exported from Russia".

In other words, if it says "Made/assembled/packaged in [any country but Russia]" (this is the country of origin), then you can bring it. For example, if someone tries to enter EU on their imported Mersedes-Benz, holding their imported iPhone, there shouild be no problem, as it is worded in the F.A.Q. But if they try to enter on their Russia-made Lada, holding their Russia-made YOTA Phone or other Russia-rebadged phone, then there may be problems.

Of course, the precision of the answer is up to interpretation by the border officer.

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